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University  of  California  •  Berkeley 
Gift  of 

MRS.    ROY  V.    SOWERS 

f    j 













PAG  8 

California  fever  in  the  States— The  start— New  York  to  Panama- 
Shipboard — Chagres — Crossing  the  Isthmus — The  river — Cruces — 
Gorgona,  ........  1-25 


Panama  in  July  1851 — Its  architecture — Shops — Churches — Dirt — 
Diseases  and  diversions — Embark  for  San  Francisco — Fever — Hard 
fare— Arrival, 26-42 


San  Francisco — Appearance  of  the  houses — Growth  of  the  city — The 
Plaza — Ships  in  the  streets — Living — Boot-blacks — Restaurants — 
Hotels,  ....  * :;  .  43-64 


Scarcity  of  labouring  men — High  wages — Want  of  social  restraint — 
Intense  rivalry  in  all  pursuits — Disappointed  hopes — Drunkenness — 
American  style  of  drinking — The  bars — Free  luncheons — The  bar- 
keeper—  Variety  of  national  houses — The  Chinese — Chinese  stores 
and  washermen — Theatres  and  gambling-rooms — Masquerades — "No 
weapons  admitted" — Magnificent  shops — Grading  the  streets — Steam 
Paddy — Raising  houses — Cabs — Post-office — Fire — Fire  companies — 
Mission  Dolores — San  Jose* — Native  Californians,  .  .  .  65-93 


Start  for  the  Mines — The  Sacramento  River — American  river-steamboats 
in  California — Natural  facilities  for  inland  navigation,  and  promptness 
of  the  Americans  in  taking  advantage  of  them — Sacramento  City — 
Appearance  of  the  houses — Street  nomenclature — Staging — Four-and- 
twenty  four-horse  coaches  start  together — The  plains — The  scenery — 
The  weather — The  mountains — Mountain  roads  and  American  drivers 
— First  sight  of  gold-digging — Arrival  at  Hangtown,  .  .  94-111 


\       CHAPTER  XXI. 


San  Andres— A  ragged  camp — Mexicans — Gambling-rooms — Music — A 
church — Throwing  the  lasso — Lynch  law — An  execution— Angel's  Camp 
—Chinese— A  ball— The  «  Lancers"— The  Highland  Fling,  .  313-322 


Carson's  Hill — Rich  quartz  mine— Mexican  mode  of  working  it — The 
quartz  vein  of  California — Gold-deposits — The  Stanislaus  River — Ferries 
and  bridges — Sonora — The  houses  and  inhabitants — Hotels  and  restau- 
rants— A  knowing  Chinaman — The  police — Gentlemen's  fashions,  323-333 


A  bull-fight— Riding  the  bull— Killing  with  the  sword— A  magician- 
Necromancy  in  the  mines — Table  Mountain — Shaw's  Flats,  .  334-343 


Fire  in  Sonora — Rapid  progress  of  the  fire,  and  total  destruction  of  the 
town— The  burned-out  inhabitants— Deaths  by  fire— Rebuilding  of  the 
town,  .........  344-352 


The  Fourth  of  July— The  procession— The  celebration— The  oration— A 
bull-fight— A  lady  bull-fighter— Natural  bridges,  .  .  .  353-362 


French  miners — Their  me*nage — Their  capacity  as  miners — Frenchmen  as 
colonists — Social  equality  in  the  mines — The  reason  of  it — And  the 
result, 363-374 


The  Stockton  stage — The  plains — San  Francisco — Its  progress — Improve- 
ment in  style  of  living — Female  influence — Extravagance — First  settle- 
ment of  California — Effective  population — Americans  as  colonists — 
English  in  California — Modern  discoveries  of  gold — Their  consequences,  375-384 


CAMP,— Frontispiece.  PAGR 

MONTE,               .........  118 

FARO,       ...            .                                    .            .            ...  .  192 

A  FLUME  ON  THE  YUBA,               .            .            .            .  .  208 

CHINESE  CAMP .           .  .  265 

BULL-FIGHT, .  .  296 

A  BALL  IN  THE  MINES,      .  .  .  .     '" ..  -  .  -'   .    •  .  .320 

SHAW'S  FLATS,            .                                                .  343 




ABOUT  the  beginning  of  the  year  1851,  the  rage 
for  emigration  to  California  from  the  United  States 
was  at  its  height.  All  sorts  and  conditions  of  men, 
old,  young,  and  middle-aged,  allured  by  the  hope  of 
acquiring  sudden  wealth,  and  fascinated  with  the 
adventure  and  excitement  of  a  life  in  California,  were 
relinquishing  their  existing  pursuits  and  associations 
to  commence  a  totally  new  existence  in  the  land  of 

The  rush  of  eager  gold-hunters  was  so  great,  that 
the  Panama  Steamship  Company's  office  in  New 
York  used  to  be  perfectly  mobbed  for  a  day  and  a 
night  previous  to  the  day  appointed  for  selling  tickets 
for  their  steamers.  Sailing  vessels  were  despatched 
for  Chagres  almost  daily,  carrying  crowds  of  pas- 


sengers,  while  numbers  went  by  the  different  routes 
through  Mexico,  and  others  chose  the  easier,  but 
more  tedious,  passage  round  Cape  Horn. 

The  emigration  from  the  Western  States  was 
naturally  very  large,  the  inhabitants  being  a  class 
of  men  whose  lives  are  spent  in  clearing  the  wild 
forests  of  the  West,  and  gradually  driving  the  Indian 
from  his  hunting-ground. 

Of  these  western-frontier  men  it  is  often  said, 
that  they  are  never  satisfied  if  there  is  any  white 
man  between  them  and  sundown.  They  are  con- 
stantly moving  westward  ;  for  as  the  wild  Indian  is 
forced  to  retire  before  them,  so  they,  in  their  turn, 
shrinking  from  the  signs  of  civilisation  which  their 
own  labours  cause  to  appear  around  them,  have  to 
plunge  deeper  into  the  forest,  in  search  of  that  wild 
border-life  which  has  such  charms  for  all  who  have 
ever  experienced  it. 

To  men  of  this  sort,  the  accounts  of  such  a  country 
as  California,  thousands  of  miles  to  the  westward  of 
them,  were  peculiarly  attractive  ;  and  so  great  was  the 
emigration,  that  many  parts  of  the  Western  States 
were  nearly  depopulated.  The  route  followed  by 
these  people  was  that  overland,  across  the  plains, 
which  was  the  most  congenial  to  their  tastes,  and  the 
most  convenient  for  them,  as,  besides  being  already  so 
far  to  the  westward,  they  were  also  provided  with  the 
necessary  waggons  and  oxen  for  the  journey.  For 
the  sake  of  mutual  protection  against  the  Indians, 
they  travelled  in  trains  of  a  dozen  or  more  waggons, 


carrying  the  women  and  children  and  provisions,  ac- 
companied by  a  proportionate  number  of  men,  some 
on  horses  or  mules,  and  others  on  foot. 

In  May  1851  I  happened  to  be  residing  in  New 
York,  and  was  seized  with  the  California  fever. 
My  preparations  were  very  soon  made,  and  a  day 
or  two  afterwards  I  found  myself  on  board  a  small 
barque  about  to  sail  for  Chagres  with  a  load  of  Cali- 
fornia emigrants.  Our  vessel  was  little  more  than 
two  hundred  tons,  and  was  entirely  devoted  to  the 
accommodation  of  passengers.  The  ballast  was 
covered  with  a  temporary  deck,  and  the  whole  inte- 
rior of  the  ship  formed  a  saloon,  round  which  were 
built  three  tiers  of  berths  :  a  very  rough  extempore 
table  and  benches  completed  the  furniture.  There 
was  no  invidious  distinction  of  cabin  and  steerage 
passengers — in  fact,  excepting  the  captain's  room, 
there  was  nothing  which  could  be  called  a  cabin  in 
the  ship.  But  all  were  in  good  spirits,  and  so  much 
engrossed  with  thoughts  of  California  that  there  was 
little  disposition  to  grumble  at  the  rough-and-ready 
style  of  our  accommodation.  For  my  own  part,  I 
knew  I  should  have  to  rough  it  in  California,  and 
felt  that  I  might  just  as  well  begin  at  once  as  wait 
till  I  got  there. 

We  numbered  about  sixty  passengers,  and  a  nice 
assortment  we  were.  The  majority,  of  course,  were 
Americans,  and  were  from  all  parts  of  the  Union  ; 
the  rest  were  English,  French,  and  German.  We 
had  representatives  of  nearly  every  trade,  besides 

4  A   GALE   OF   WIND. 

farmers,  engineers,  lawyers,  doctors,  merchants,  and 
nondescript  "young  men." 

The  first  day  out  we  had  fine  weather,  with  just 
sea  enough  to  afford  the  uninitiated  an  opportunity 
of  discovering  the  difference  between  the  lee  and  the 
weather  side  of  the  ship.  The  second  day  we  had  a 
fresh  breeze,  which  towards  night  blew  a  gale,  and 
for  a  couple  of  days  we  were  compelled  to  lay  to. 

The  greater  part  of  the  passengers,  being  from  the 
interior  of  the  country,  had  never  seen  the  ocean 
before,  and  a  gale  of  wind  was  a  thing  they  did  not 
understand  at  all.  Those  who  were  not  too  sick 
to  be  able  to  form  an  opinion  on  the  subject,  were 
frightened  out  of  their  senses,  and  imagined  that  all 
manner  of  dreadful  things  were  going  to  happen  to 
the  ship.  The  first  night  of  the  gale,  I  was  awoke 
by  an  old  fool  shouting  frantically  to  the  company  in 
general,  to  get  up  and  save  the  ship,  because  he  heard 
the  water  rushing  into  her,  and  we  should  sink  in  a 
few  minutes.  He  was  very  emphatically  cursed  for 
his  trouble  by  those  whose  slumbers  he  had  dis- 
turbed, and  told  to  hold  his  tongue,  and  let  those 
sleep  who  could,  if  he  were  unable  to  do  so  himself. 

It  was  certainly,  however,  not  very  easy  to  sleep 
that  night.  The  ship  was  very  crank,  and  but  few 
of  the  party  had  taken  the  precaution  to  make  fast 
their  luggage  ;  the  consequence  was,  that  boxes  and 
chests  of  all  sizes,  besides  casks  of  provisions,  and 
other  ship's  stores,  which  had  got  adrift,  were  cruis- 
ing about  promiscuously,  threatening  to  smash  up  the 


flimsy  framework  on  which  our  berths  were  built, 
and  endangering  the  limbs  of  any  one  who  should 
venture  to  turn  out. 

In  the  morning  we  found  that  the  cook's  galley 
had  fetched  way,  and  the  stove  was  rendered  use- 
less ;  the  steward  and  waiters — landlubbers  who  were 
only  working  their  passage  to  Chagres  —  were  as 
sick  as  the  sickest,  and  so  the  prospect  for  breakfast 
was  by  no  means  encouraging.  However,  there  were 
not  more  than  half-a-dozen  of  us  who  could  eat  any- 
thing, or  could  even  stand  on  deck  ;  so  we  roughed  it 
out  on  cold  beef,  hard  bread,  and  brandy-and- water. 

The  sea  was  not  very  high,  and  the  ship  lay  to 
comfortably  and  dry  ;  but,  in  the  evening,  some  of  the 
poor  wretches  below  had  worked  themselves  up  to 
desperation,  being  sure,  every  time  the  ship  laid  over, 
that  she  was  never  coming  up  again.  At  last,  one 
man,  who  could  stand  it  no  longer,  jumped  out  of  his 
berth,  and,  going  down  on  his  knees,  commenced  clap- 
ping his  hands,  and  uttering  the  most  dismal  howls 
and  groans,  interspersed  with  disjointed  fragments  of 
prayers.  He  called  on  all  hands  to  join  him  ;  but  it 
was  not  a  form  of  worship  to  which  many  seemed  to 
be  accustomed,  for  only  two  men  responded  to  his 
call.  He  very  kindly  consigned  all  the  rest  of  the 
company  to  a  place  which  I  trust  none  of  us  may 
reach,  and  prayed  that  for  the  sake  of  the  three 
righteous  men — himself  and  the  other  two — the  ship 
might  be  saved.  They  continued  for  about  an  hour, 
clapping  their  hands  as  if  applauding,  and  crying  and 


groaning  most  piteously — so  bereft  of  sense,  by  fear, 
that  they  seemed  not  to  know  the  meaning  of  their 
incoherent  exclamations.  The  captain,  however,  at 
last  succeeded  in  persuading  them  that  there  was  no 
danger,  and  they  gradually  cooled  down,  to  the  great 
relief  of  the  rest  of  the  passengers. 

The  next  day  we  had  better  weather,  but  the  sick- 
list  was  as  large  as  ever,  and  we  had  to  mess  again  on 
whatever  raw  materials  we  could  lay  our  hands  on— 
red-herrings,  onions,  ham,  and  biscuit. 

We  deposed  the  steward  as  a  useless  vagabond, 
and  appointed  three  passengers  to  fill  his  place,  after 
which  we  fared  a  little  better — in  fact,  as  well  as  the 
provisions  at  our  command  would  allow.  No  one 
grumbled,  excepting  a  few  of  the  lowest  class  of  men 
in  the  party,  who  had  very  likely  never  been  used  to 
such  good  living  ashore. 

V/hen  we  got  into  the  trade-winds  we  had  delight- 
ful weather,  very  hot,  but  with  a  strong  breeze  at 
night,  rendering  it  sufficiently  cool  to  sleep  in  com- 
fort. The  all-engrossing  subject  of  conversation,  and 
of  meditation,  was  of  course  California,  and  the  heaps 
of  gold  we  were  all  to  find  there.  As  we  had  secured 
our  passage  only  as  far  as  Chagres,  our  progress  from 
that  point  to  San  Francisco  was  also  a  matter  of 
constant  discussion.  We  all  knew  that  every  steamer 
to  leave  Panama,  for  months  to  come,  was  already 
full,  and  that  hundreds  of  men  were  waiting  there  to 
take  advantage  of  any  opportunity  that  might  occur 
of  reaching  San  Francisco  ;  but  among  our  passen- 


gers  there  were  very  few  who  were  travelling  in  com- 
pany ;  they  were  mostly  all  isolated  individuals,  each 
"  on  his  own  hook,"  and  every  one  was  perfectly 
confident  that  he  at  least  would  have  no  trouble  in 
getting  along,  whatever  might  be  the  fate  of  the  rest 
of  the  crowd. 

We  added  to  the  delicacies  of  our  bill  of  fare  occa- 
sionally by  killing  dolphins.  They  are  very  good 
eating,  and  afford  capital  sport.  They  come  in  small 
shoals  of  a  dozen  or  so,  and  amuse  themselves  by 
playing  about  before  the  bows  of  the  vessel,  when> 
getting  down  into  the  martingale  under  the  bowsprit, 
one  takes  the  opportunity  to  let  drive  at  them  with 
the  "  grains,"  a  small  five-pronged  harpoon. 

The  dolphin,  by  the  way,  is  most  outrageously  and 
systematically  libelled.  Instead  of  being  the  horrid, 
big-headed,  crooked-backed  monster  which  it  is  gene- 
rally represented,  it  is  the  most  elegant  and  highly- 
finished  fish  that  swims. 

For  three  or  four  days  before  reaching  Chagres,  all 
hands  were  busy  packing  up,  and  firing  off  and  re- 
loading pistols  ;  for  a  revolver  and  a  bowie-knife 
were  considered  the  first  items  in  a  California  outfit. 
We  soon  assumed  a  warlike  appearance,  and  though 
many  of  the  party  had  probably  never  handled  a 
pistol  in  their  lives  before,  they  tried  to  wear  their 
weapons  in  a  neglige  style,  as  if  they  never  had  been 
used  to  go  without  them. 

There  were  now  also  great  consultations  as  to  what 
sort  of  hats,  coats,  and  boots,  should  be  worn  in  cross- 


ing  the  Isthmus.  Wondrous  accounts  constantly 
appeared  in  the  New  York  papers  of  the  dangers  and 
difficulties  of  these  few  miles  of  land-and-river  tra- 
vel, and  most  of  the  passengers,  before  leaving  New 
York,  had  been  humbugged  into  buying  all  manner 
of  absurd  and  useless  articles,  many  of  them  made  of 
india-rubber,  which  they  had  been  assured,  and  con- 
sequently believed,  were  absolutely  necessary.  But 
how  to  carry  them  all,  or  even  how  to  use  them,  was 
the  main  difficulty,  and  would  indeed  have  puzzled 
much  cleverer  men. 

Some  were  equipped  with  pots,  pans,  kettles,  drink- 
ing-cups,  knives  and  forks,  spoons,  pocket-filters  (for 
they  had  been  told  that  the  water  on  the  Isthmus 
was  very  dirty),  india-rubber  contrivances,  which 
an  ingenious  man,  with  a  powerful  imagination  and 
strong  lungs,  could  blow  up  and  convert  into  a  bed, 
a  boat,  or  a  tent — bottles  of  "  cholera  preventive," 
boxes  of  pills  for  curing  every  disease  to  which  human 
nature  is  liable  ;  and  some  men,  in  addition  to  all  this, 
determined  to  be  prepared  to  combat  danger  in  every 
shape,  bade  defiance  to  the  waters  of*  the  Chagres 
river  by  buckling  on  india-rubber  life-preservers. 

Others  of  the  party,  who  were  older  travellers,  and 
who  held  all  such  accoutrements  in  utter  contempt, 
had  merely  a  small  valise  with  a  few  necessary  articles 
of  clothing,  an  oil-skin  coat,  and,  very  probably,  a 
pistol  stowed  away  on  some  part  of  their  person, 
which  would  be  pretty  sure  to  go  off  when  occasion 
required,  but  not  before. 


At  last,  after  twenty  days'  passage  from  New  York, 
we  made  Chagres,  and  got  up  to  the  anchorage 
towards  evening.  The  scenery  was  very  beautiful. 
We  lay  about  three-quarters  of  a  mile  from  shore, 
in  a  small  bay  enclosed  by  high  bluffs,  completely 
covered  with  dense  foliage  of  every  shade  of  green. 

We  had  but  little  time,  however,  to  enjoy  the 
scenery  that  evening,  as  we  had  scarcely  anchored 
when  the  rain  began  to  come  down  in  true  tropical 
style ;  every  drop  was  a  bucketful.  The  thunder  and 
lightning  were  terrific,  and  in  good  keeping  with  the 
rain,  which  is  one  of  the  things  for  which  Chagres  is 
celebrated.  Its  character  as  a  sickly  wretched  place 
was  so  well  known  that  none  of  us  went  ashore  that 
night ;  we  all  preferred  sleeping  aboard  ship. 

It  was  very  amusing  to  watch  the  change  which 
had  been  coming  over  some  of  the  men  on  board. 
They  seemed  to  shrink  within  themselves,  and  to  wish 
to  avoid  being  included  in  any  of  the  small  parties 
which  were  being  formed  to  make  the  passage  up  the 
river.  They  were  those  who  had  provided  them- 
selves with  innumerable  contrivances  for  the  protec- 
tion of  their  precious  persons  against  sun,  wind,  and 
rain,  also  with  extraordinary  assortments  of  very  un- 
tempting-looking  provisions,  and  who  were  completely 
equipped  with  pistols,  knives,  and  other  warlike 
implements.  They  were  like  so  many  Eobinson 
Crusoes,  ready  to  be  put  ashore  on  a  desert  island ; 
and  they  seemed  to  imagine  themselves  to  be  in  just 
such  a  predicament,  fearful,  at  the  same  time,  that 


companionship  with  any  one  not  provided  with  the 
same  amount  of  rubbish  as  themselves,  might  involve 
their  losing  the  exclusive  benefit  of  what  they  sup- 
posed so  absolutely  necessary.  I  actually  heard  one 
of  them  refuse  another  man  a  chew  of  tobacco,  say- 
ing he  guessed  he  had  no  more  than  what  he  could 
use  himself. 

The  men  of  this  sort,  of  whom  I  am  happy  to  say 
there  were  not  many,  offered  a  striking  contrast  to 
the  rest  in  another  respect.  On  arriving  at  Chagres 
they  became  quite  dejected  and  sulky,  and  seemed  to 
be  oppressed  with  anxiety,  while  the  others  were  in 
a  wild  state  of  delight  at  having  finished  a  tedious 
passage,  and  in  anticipation  of  the  novelty  and  ex- 
citement of  crossing  the  Isthmus. 

In  the  morning  several  shore-boats,  all  pulled  by 
Americans,  came  off  to  take  us  ashore.  The  landing 
here  is  rather  dangerous.  There  is  generally  a  very 
heavy  swell,  causing  vessels  to  roll  so  much  that 
getting  into  a  small  boat  alongside  is  a  matter  of 
considerable  difficulty ;  and  at  the  mouth  of  the 
river  is  a  bar,  on  which  are  immense  rollers,  requiring 
good  management  to  get  over  them  in  safety. 

We  went  ashore  in  torrents  of  rain,  and  when 
landed  with  our  baggage  on  the  muddy  bank  of  the 
Chagres  river,  all  as  wet  as  if  we  had  swam  ashore, 
we  were  immediately  beset  by  crowds  of  boatmen, 
Americans,  natives,  and  Jamaica  niggers,  all  endea- 
vouring to  make  a  bargain  with  us  for  the  passage 
up  the  river  to  Cruces. 


The  town  of  Chagres  is  built  on  each  side  of  the 
river,  and  consists  of  a  few  miserable  cane-and-mud 
huts,  with  one  or  two  equally  wretched  -  looking 
wooden  houses,  which  were  hotels  kept  by  Americans. 
On  the  top  of  the  bluff,  on  the  south  side  of  the  river, 
are  the  ruins  of  an  old  Spanish  castle,  which  look 
very  picturesque,  almost  concealed  by  the  luxurious 
growth  of  trees  and  creepers  around  them. 

The  natives  seemed  to  be  a  miserable  set  of  people, 
and  the  few  Americans  in  the  town  were  most  sickly, 
washed -out -looking  objects,  with  the  appearance  of 
having  been  steeped  for  a  length  of  time  in  water. 

After  breakfasting  on  ham  and  beans  at  one  of  the 
hotels,  we  selected  a  boat  to  convey  us  up  the  river; 
and  as  the  owner  had  no  crew  engaged,  we  got  him 
to  take  two  sailors  who  had  run  away  from  our  vessel, 
and  were  bound  for  California  like  the  rest  of  us. 

There  was  a  great  variety  of  boats  employed  on 
the  river — whale-boats,  ships'  boats,  skiffs,  and  canoes 
of  all  sizes,  some  of  them  capable  of  carrying  fifteen 
or  twenty  people.  It  was  still  raining  heavily  when 
we  started,  but  shortly  afterwards  the  weather  cleared 
up,  and  we  felt  in  better  humour  to  enjoy  the  magni- 
ficent scenery.  The  river  was  from  seventy -five  to 
a  hundred  yards  wide,  and  the  banks  were  completely 
hidden  by  the  dense  mass  of  vegetation  overhanging 
the  water.  There  was  a  vast  variety  of  beautiful 
foliage,  and  many  of  the  trees  were  draped  in 
creepers,  covered  with  large  flowers  of  most  brilliant 
colours.  One  of  our  party,  who  was  a  Scotch  gardener, 

12  THE    RIVER. 

was  in  ecstacies  at  such  a  splendid  natural  flower- 
show,  and  gave  us  long  Latin  names  for  all  the 
different  specimens.  The  rest  of  my  fellow-passengers 
were  a  big  fat  man  from  Buffalo,  two  young  South- 
erners from  South  Carolina,  three  New-Yorkers,  and 
a  Swede.  The  boat  was  rather  heavily  laden,  but  for 
some  hours  we  got  along  very  well,  as  there  was  but 
little  current.  Towards  the  afternoon,  however,  our 
two  sailors,  who  had  been  pulling  all  the  time,  began 
to  flag,  and  at  last  said  they  could  go  no  further 
without  a  rest.  We  were  still  many  miles  from  the 
place  where  we  were  to  pass  the  night,  and  as  the 
banks  of  the  river  presented  such  a  formidable 
barricade  of  jungle  as  to  prevent  a  landing,  we  had 
the  prospect  of  passing  the  night  in  the  boat,  unless 
we  made  the  most  of  our  time ;  so  the  gardener  and  I 
volunteered  to  take  a  spell  at  the  oars.  But  as  we 
ascended  the  river  the  current  became  much  stronger, 
and  darkness  overtook  us  some  distance  from  our 
intended  stopping-place. 

It  became  so  very  dark  that  we  could  not  see 
six  feet  ahead  of  us,  and  were  constantly  bumping 
against  other  boats  coming  up  the  river.  There  were 
also  many  boats  coming  down  with  the  current  at 
such  a  rate,  that  if  one  had  happened  to  run  into  us, 
we  should  have  had  but  a  poor  chance,  and  we  were 
obliged  to  keep  shouting  all  the  time  to  let  our 
whereabouts  be  known. 

We  were  several  times  nearly  capsized  on  snags, 
and,  as  we  really  could  not  see  whether  we  were 

A    PLEASANT    NIGHT.  13 

making  any  way  or  not,  we  came  to  the  determina- 
tion of  making  fast  to  a  tree  till  the  moon  should  rise. 
It  was  now  raining  again  as  heavily  as  ever,  and 
having  fully  expected  to  make  the  station  that 
evening,  we  had  taken  no  provisions  with  us.  We 
were  all  very  wet,  very  hungry,  and  more  or  less 
inclined  to  be  in  a  bad  humour.  Consequently,  the 
question  of  stopping  or  going  ahead  was  not  deter- 
mined without  a  great  deal  of  wrangling  and  dis- 
cussion. However,  our  two  sailors  declared  they 
would  not  pull  another  stroke — the  gardener  and  my- 
self were  in  favour  of  stopping — and  as  none  of  the 
rest  of  our  number  were  at  all  inclined  to  exert 
themselves,  the  question  was  thus  settled  for  them, 
although  they  continued  to  discuss  it  for  their  own 
satisfaction  for  some  time  afterwards. 

It  was  about  eight  o'clock,  when,  catching  hold  of 
a  bough  of  a  tree  twelve  or  fifteen  feet  from  the 
shore,  we  made  fast.  We  could  not  attempt  to  land, 
as  the  shore  was  so  guarded  by  bushes  and  sunken 
branches  as  to  render  the  nearer  approach  of  the  boat 

So  here  we  were,  thirteen  of  us,  with  a  propor- 
tionate pile  of  baggage,  cramped  up  in  a  small  boat, 
in  which  we  had  spent  the  day,  and  were  now  doomed 
to  pass  the  night,  our  miseries  aggravated  by  torrents 
of  rain,  nothing  to  eat,  and,  worse  than  that,  nothing 
to  drink,  but,  worse  than  all,  without  even  a  dry 
match  wherewith  to  light  a  pipe.  If  ever  it  is  ex- 
cusable to  chew  tobacco,  it  surely  is  on  such  an 

14  A    HOTEL. 

occasion  as  this.  I  had  worked  a  good  deal  at  the 
oar,  and  from  the  frequent  alternations  we  had 
experienced  of  scorching  heat  and  drenching  rain,  I 
felt  as  if  I  could  enjoy  a  nap,  notwithstanding  the 
disagreeables  of  our  position;  but,  fearing  the  con- 
sequences of  sleeping  under  such  circumstances  in 
that  climate,  I  kept  myself  awake  the  best  way  I 

We  managed  to  get  through  the  night  somehow, 
and  about  three  o'clock  in  the  morning,  as  the  moon 
began  to  give  sufficient  light  to  let  us  see  where  we 
were,  we  got  under  weigh  again,  and  after  a  couple  of 
hours'  hard  pulling,  we  arrived  at  the  place  we  had 
expected  to  reach  the  evening  before. 

It  was  a  very  beautiful  little  spot — a  small  natural 
clearing  on  the  top  of  a  high  bank,  on  which  were 
one  or  two  native  huts,  and  a  canvass  establishment 
which  had  been  set  up  by  a  Yankee,  and  was  called  a 
'•  Hotel."  We  went  to  this  hotel,  and  found  some 
twenty  or  thirty  fellow-travellers,  who  had  there 
enjoyed  a  night's  rest,  and  were  now  just  sitting 
down  to  breakfast  at  a  long  rough  table  which 
occupied  the  greater  part  of  the  house.  The  kitchen 
consisted  of  a  cooking- stove  in  one  corner,  and 
opposite  to  it  was  the  bar,  which  was  supplied  with  a 
few  bottles  of  bad  brandy,  while  a  number  of  canvass 
shelves,  ranged  all  round,  constituted  the  dormitory. 

We  made  up  for  the  loss  of  our  supper  by  eating  a 
hearty  breakfast  of  ham,  beans,  and  eggs,  and  started 
again  in  company  with  our  more  fortunate  fellow- 

SCENERY.  1 5 

travellers.  The  weather  was  once  more  bright  and 
clear,  and  confined  as  we  were  between  the  densely 
wooded  and  steaming  banks  of  the  river,  we  found 
the  heat  most  oppressive. 

We  saw  numbers  of  parrots  of  brilliant  plumage, 
and  a  great  many  monkeys  and  alligators,  at  which 
there  was  a  constant  discharge  of  pistols  and  rifles, 
our  passage  being  further  enlivened  by  an  occasional 
race  with  some  of  the  other  boats. 

The  river  still  continued  to  become  more  rapid,  and 
our  progress  was  consequently  very  slow.  The  two 
sailors  were  quite  unable  to  work  all  day  at  the  oars ; 
the  owner  of  the  boat  was  a  useless  encumbrance  ; 
he  could  not  even  steer;  so  the  gardener  and  myself 
were  again  obliged  occasionally  to  exert  ourselves. 
The  fact  is,  the  boat  was  overloaded ;  two  men  were  not 
a  sufficient  crew ;  and  if  we  had  not  worked  ourselves, 
we  should  never  have  got  to  Cruces.  I  wanted  the 
other  passengers  to  do  their  share  of  work  for  the 
common  good,  but  some  protested  they  did  not  know 
how  to  pull,  others  pleaded  bad  health,  and  the  rest 
very  coolly  said,  that  having  paid  their  money  to  be 
taken  to  Cruces,  they  expected  to  be  taken  there,  and 
would  not  pull  a  stroke ;  they  did  not  care  how  long 
they  might  be  on  the  river. 

It  was  evident  that  we  had  made  a  bad  bargain, 
and  if  these  other  fellows  would  not  lend  a  hand,  it 
was  only  the  more  necessary  that  some  one  else 
should.  It  was  rather  provoking  to  see  them  sitting 
doggedly  under  their  umbrellas,  but  we  could  not 


well  pitch  them  overboard,  or  put  them  ashore,  and  I 
comforted  myself  with  the  idea  that  their  turn  would 
certainly  come,  notwithstanding  their  obstinacy. 

After  a  tedious  day,  during  which  we  had,  as  be- 
fore, deluges  of  rain,  with  intervals  of  scorching  sun- 
shine, we  arrived  about  six  o'clock  at  a  native  settle- 
ment, where  we  were  to  spend  the  night. 

It  was  a  small  clearing,  with  merely  two  or  three 
huts,  inhabited  by  eight  or  ten  miserable -looking 
natives,  mostly  women.  Their  lazy  listless  way  of 
doing  things  did  not  suit  the  humour  we  were  in  at 
all.  The  invariable  reply  to  all  demands  for  some- 
thing to  eat  and  drink  was  poco  tiempo  (by-and-by), 
said  in  that  sort  of  tone  one  would  use  to  a  trouble- 
some child.  They  knew  very  well  we  were  at  their 
mercy — we  could  not  go  anywhere  else  for  our  supper 
— and  they  took  it  easy  accordingly.  We  succeeded 
at  last  in  getting  supper  in  instalments — now  a  mouth- 
ful of  ham,  now  an  egg  or  a  few  beans,  and  then  a 
cup  of  coffee,  just  as  they  could  make  up  their 
minds  to  the  violent  exertion  of  getting  these  articles 
ready  for  us. 

About  half-a-dozen  other  boat-loads  of  passengers 
were  also  stopping  here,  some  fifty  or  sixty  of  us  alto- 
gether, and  three  small  shanties  were  the  only  shelter 
to  be  had.  The  native  population  crowded  into  one 
of  them,  and,  in  consideration  of  sundry  dollars, 
allowed  us  the  exclusive  enjoyment  of  the  other  two. 
They  were  mere  sheds  about  fifteen  feet  square,  open 
all  round  ;  but  as  the  rain  was  again  pouring  down, 


we  thought  of  the  night  before,  and  were  thankful 
for  small  mercies. 

I  secured  a  location  with  three  or  four  others  in 
the  upper  storey  of  one  of  these  places — a  sort  of  loft 
made  of  bamboos  about  eight  feet  from  the  ground, 
to  which  we  climbed  by  means  of  a  pole  with  notches 
cut  in  it. 

The  next  day  we  found  the  river  more  rapid  than 
ever.  Oars  were  now  useless — we  had  to  pole  the 
boat  up  the  stream ;  and  at  last  the  patience  of  the 
rest  of  the  party  was  exhausted,  and  they  reluctantly 
took  their  turn  at  the  work.  We  hardly  made  twelve 
miles,  and  halted  in  the  evening  at  a  place  called  Dos 
Hermanos,  where  were  two  native  houses. 

Here  we  found  already  about  fifty  fellow-travellers, 
and  several  parties  arrived  after  us.  On  the  native 
landlord  we  were  all  dependent  for  supper ;  but  we, 
at  least,  were  a  little  too  late,  as  there  was  nothing 
to  be  had  but  boiled  rice  and  coffee — not  even  beans. 
There  were  a  few  live  chickens  about,  which  we  would 
soon  have  disposed  of,  but  cooking  was  out  of  the 
question.  It  was  raining  furiously,  and  there  were 
sixty  or  seventy  of  us,  all  huddled  into  two  small 
places  of  fifteen  feet  square,  together  with  a  number 
of  natives  and  Jamaica  negroes,  the  crews  of  some  of 
the  boats.  Several  of  the  passengers  were  in  differ- 
ent stages  of  drunkenness,  generally  developing  itself 
in  a  desire  to  fight,  and  more  particularly  to  pitch 
into  the  natives  and  niggers.  There  seemed  a  prospect 
of  a  general  set-to  between  black  and  white,  which 


would  have  been  a  bloody  one,  as  all  the  passengers 
had  either  a  revolver  or  a  bowie-knife — most  of  them 
had  both — and  the  natives  were  provided  with  their 
machetes — half  knife,  half  cutlass — which  they  always 
carry,  and  know  how  to  use.  Many  of  the  Americans, 
however,  were  of  the  better  class,  and  used  their  in- 
fluence to  quiet  the  more  unruly  of  their  countrymen. 
One  man  made  a  most  touching  appeal  to  their  honour 
not  to  "  kick  up  a  muss/'  as  there  was  a  lady  "  of  their 
own  colour  "  in  the  next  room,  who  was  in  a  state  of 
great  agitation.  The  two  rooms  opened  into  each 
other,  and  were  so  full  of  men  that  one  could  hardly 
turn  round,  and  the  lady  of  our  own  colour  was  of 
course  a  myth.  However,  the  more  violent  of  the 
crowd  quieted  down  a  little,  and  affairs  looked  more 

We  passed  a  most  miserable  night.  We  lay  down 
as  best  we  could,  and  were  packed  like  sardines  in  a 
box.  All  wanted  to  sleep ;  but  if  one  man  moved,  he 
woke  half-a-dozen  others,  who  again  in  waking  roused 
all  the  rest ;  so  sleep  was,  like  our  supper,  only  to  be 
enjoyed  in  imagination,  and  all  we  could  do  was  to 
wait  intently  for  daylight.  As  soon  as  we  could  see, 
we  all  left  the  wretched  place,  none  of  us  much  im- 
proved in  temper,  or  in  general  condition.  It  was 
still  raining,  and  we  had  the  pleasure  of  knowing  that 
we  should  not  get  any  breakfast  for  two  or  three 

We  had  another  severe  day  on  the  river — hot  sun, 
heavy  rain,  and  hard  work  ;  and  in  the  afternoon  we 


arrived  at  Gorgona,  a  small  village,  where  a  great 
many  passengers  leave  the  river  and  take  the  road  to 

Graces  is  about  seven  miles  farther  up  the  river, 
and  from  there  the  road  to  Panama  is  said  to  be  much 
better,  especially  in  wet  weather,  when  the  Gorgona 
road  is  almost  impassable. 

The  village  of  Gorgona  consisted  of  a  number  of 
native  shanties,  built,  in  the  usual  style,  of  thin  canes, 
between  any  two  of  which  you  might  put  your  finger, 
and  fastened  together,  in  basket  fashion,  with  the  long 
woody  tendrils  with  which  the  woods  abound.  The 
roof  is  of  palm  leaves,  slanting  up  to  a  great  height, 
so  as  to  shed  the  heavy  rains.  Some  of  these  houses 
have  only  three  sides,  others  have  only  two,  while 
some  have  none  at  all,  being  open  all  round  ;  and  in 
all  of  them  might  be  seen  one  or  more  natives  swing- 
ing in  a  hammock,  calmly  and  patiently  waiting  for 
time  to  roll  on,  or,  it  may  be,  deriving  intense  enjoy- 
ment from  the  mere  consciousness  of  existence. 

There  was  a  large  canvass  house,  on  which  was 
painted  "Gorgona  Hotel."  It  was  kept  by  an  Ameri- 
can, the  most  unwholesome-looking  individual  I  had 
yet  seen ;  he  was  the  very  personification  of  fever. 
We  had  here  a  very  luxurious  dinner,  having  plan- 
tains and  eggs  in  addition  to  the  usual  fare  of  ham 
and  beans.  The  upper  storey  of  the  hotel  was  a  large 
loft,  so  low  in  the  roof  that  one  could  not  Stand 
straight  up  in  it.  In  this  there  were  sixty  or  seventy 
beds,  so  close  together  that  there  was  just  room  to 


pass  between  them  ;  and  as  those  at  one  end  became 
tenanted,  the  passages  leading  to  them  were  filled  up 
with  more  beds,  in  such  a  manner  that,  when  all  were 
put  up,  not  an  inch  of  the  floor  could  be  seen. 

After  our  fatigues  on  the  river,  and  the  miserable 
way  in  which  we  had  passed  the  night  before,  such 
sleeping  accommodation  as  this  appeared  very  invit- 
ing ;  and  immediately  after  dinner  I  appropriated  one 
of  the  beds,  and  slept  even  on  till  daylight.  We  met 
here  several  men  who  were  returning  from  Panama,  on 
their  way  home  again.  They  had  been  waiting  there 
for  some  months  for  a  steamer,  by  which  they  had 
tickets  for  San  Francisco,  and  which  was  coming 
round  the  Horn.  She  was  long  overdue,  however, 
and  having  lost  patience,  they  were  going  home,  in 
the  vain  hope  of  getting  damages  out  of  the  owner  of 
the  steamer.  If  they  had  been  very  anxious  to  go 
to  California,  they  might  have  sold  their  tickets,  and 
taken  the  opportunity  of  a  sailing-vessel  from  Panama; 
but  from  the  way  in  which  they  spoke  of  their  griev- 
ances, it  was  evident  that  they  were  home-sick,  and 
glad  of  any  excuse  to  turn  tail  and  go  back  again. 

We  had  frequently,  on  our  way  up  the  river,  seen 
different  parties  of  our  fellow-passengers.  At  Gor- 
gona  we  mustered  strong ;  and  we  found  that,  not- 
withstanding the  disadvantage  we  had  been  under  of 
having  an  overloaded  boat,  we  had  made  as  good 
time  as  any  of  them. 

A  great  many  here  took  the  road  for  Panama,  but 
we  determined  to  go  on  by  the  river  to  Graces,  for 


the  sake  of  the  better  road  from  that  place.  All  our 
difficulties  hitherto  were  nothing  to  what  we  en- 
countered in  these  last  few  miles.  It  was  one  con- 
tinued rapid  all  the  way,  and  in  many  places  some  of 
us  were  obliged  to  get  out  and  tow  the  boat,  while 
the  rest  used  the  poles. 

We  were  all  heartily  disgusted  with  the  river,  and 
were  satisfied,  when  we  arrived  at  Cruces,  that  we 
had  got  over  the  worst  of  the  Isthmus  ;  for  however 
bad  the  road  might  be,  it  could  not  be  harder 
travelling  than  we  had  already  experienced. 

Cruces  was  just  such  a  village  as  Gorgona,  with  a 
similar  canvass  hotel,  kept  by  equally  cadaverous- 
looking  Americans. 

In  establishing  their  hotels  at  different  points  on 
the  Chagres  river,  the  Americans  encountered  great 
opposition  from  the  natives,  who  wished  to  reap  all 
the  benefit  of  the  travel  themselves ;  but  they  were 
too  many  centuries  behind  the  age  to  have  any 
chance  in  fair  competition ;  and  so  they  resorted  to 
personal  threats  and  violence,  till  the  persuasive 
eloquence  of  Colt's  revolvers,  and  the  overwhelming 
numbers  of  American  travellers,  convinced  them  that 
they  were  wrong,  and  that  they  had  better  submit  to 
their  fate. 

One  branch  of  business  which  the  natives  had  all 
to  themselves  was  mule-driving,  and  carrying  baggage 
over  the  road  from  Cruces  to  Panama,  and  at  this 
they  had  no  competition  to  fear  from  any  one.  The 
luggage  was  either  packed  on  mules,  or  carried  on 


men's  backs,  being  lashed  into  a  sort  of  wicker- 
work  contrivance,  somewhat  similar  to  those  used  by 
French  porters,  and  so  adjusted  with  straps  that  the 
weight  bore  directly  down  on  the  shoulders.  It  was 
astonishing  to  see  what  loads  these  men  could  carry 
over  such  a  road  ;  and  it  really  seemed  inconsistent 
with  their  indolent  character,  that  they  should  per- 
form, so  actively,  such  prodigious  feats  of  labour. 
Two  hundred  and  fifty  pounds  weight  was  an  average 
load  for  a  man  to  walk  off  with,  doing  the  twenty- 
five  miles  to  Panama  in  a  day  and  a  half,  and  some 
men  carried  as  much  as  three  hundred  pounds.  They 
were  well  made,  and  muscular  though  not  large  men, 
and  were  apparently  more  of  the  Negro  than  the 

The  journey  to  Panama  was  generally  performed  on 
mules,  but  frequently  on  foot ;  and  as  the  rest  of  our 
party  intended  to  walk,  I  determined  also  to  forego 
the  luxury  of  a  mule ;  so,  having  engaged  men  to  carry 
our  baggage,  we  set  out  about  two  o'clock  in  the 

The  weather  was  fine,  and  for  a  short  distance  out 
of  Cruces  the  road  was  easy  enough,  and  we  were 
beginning  to  think  we  should  have  a  pleasant  journey ; 
but  we  were  very  soon  undeceived,  for  it  commenced 
to  rain  in  the  usual  style,  and  the  road  became  most 
dreadful.  It  was  a  continual  climb  over  the  rocky 
beds  of  precipitous  gullies,  the  gully  itself  perhaps 
ten  or  twelve  feet  deep,  and  the  dense  wood  on  each 
side  meeting  over  head,  so  that  no  fresh  air  relieved 


one  in  toiling  along.  We  could  generally  see  rocks 
sticking  up  out  of  the  water,  on  which  to  put  our  feet, 
but  we  were  occasionally,  for  a  considerable  distance, 
up  to  the  knees  in  water  and  mud. 

The  steep  banks  on  each  side  of  us  were  so  close 
together,  that  in  many  places  two  packed  mules  could 
not  pass  each  other ;  sometimes,  indeed,  even  a  single 
mule  got  jammed  by  the  trunk  projecting  on  either 
side  of  him.  It  was  a  most  fatiguing  walk.  When 
it  did  not  rain,  the  heat  was  suffocating ;  and  when  it 
rained,  it  poured. 

There  was  a  place  called  the  "  Half-way  House,"  to 
which  we  looked  forward  anxiously  as  the  end  of  our 
day's  journey;  and  as  it  was  kept  by  an  American, 
we  expected  to  find  it  a  comparatively  comfortable 
place.  But  our  disappointment  was  great,  when, 
about  dark,  we  arrived  at  this  half-way  house,  and 
found  it  to  be  a  miserable  little  tent,  not  much  more 
than  twelve  feet  square. 

On  entering  we  found  some  eight  or  ten  travellers 
in  the  same  plight  as  ourselves,  tired,  hungry,  wet 
through,  and  with  aching  limbs.  The  only  furniture 
in  the  tent  consisted  of  a  rough  table  three  feet  long, 
and  three  cots.  The  ground  was  all  wet  and  sloppy, 
and  the  rain  kept  dropping  through  the  canvass  over 
head.  There  were  only  two  plates,  and  two  knives 
and  forks  in  the  establishment,  so  we  had  to  pitch 
into  the  salt  pork  and  beans  two  at  a  time,  while  the 
rest  of  the  crowd  stood  round  and  looked  at  us  ;  for 
the  cots  were  the  only  seats  in  the  place,  and  they 

24  HARD   BEDS. 

were  so  rickety  that  not  more  than  two  men  could 
sit  on  them  at  a  time. 

More  travellers  continued  to  arrive  ;  and  as  the 
prospect  of  a  night  in  such  a  place  was  so  exceedingly 
dismal,  I  persuaded  our  party  to  return  about  half  a 
mile  to  a  native  hut  which  we  had  passed  on  the 
road,  to  take  our  chance  of  what  accommodation 
we  could  get  there.  We  soon  arranged  with  the 
woman,  who  seemed  to  be  the  only  inhabitant  of  the 
house,  to  allow  us  to  sleep  in  it ;  and  as  we  were  all 
thoroughly  soaked,  every  sort  of  waterproof  coat  hav- 
ing proved  equally  useless  after  the  few  days'  severe 
trial  we  had  given  them,  we  looked  out  anxiously 
for  any  of  the  natives  coming  along  with  our  trunks. 

In  the  mean  time  I  borrowed  a  towel  from  the  old 
woman  of  the  shanty;  and  as  it  was  now  fair,  I  went 
into  the  bush,  and  got  one  of  our  two  sailors,  who  had 
stuck  by  us,  to  rub  me  down  as  hard  as  he  could. 
This  entirely  removed  all  pain  and  stiffness ;  and 
though  I  had  to  put  on  my  wet  clothes  again,  I  felt 
completely  refreshed. 

Not  long  afterwards  a  native  made  his  appearance, 
carrying  the  trunk  of  one  of  the  party,  who  very  gene- 
rously supplied  us  all  from  it  with  dry  clothes,  when 
we  betook  ourselves  to  our  couches.  They  were  not 
luxurious,  being  a  number  of  dried  hides  laid  on  the 
floor,  as  hard  as  so  many  sheets  of  iron,  and  full  of 
bumps  and  hollows ;  but  they  were  dry,  which  was  all 
we  cared  about,  for  we  thought  of  the  poor  devils 
sleeping  in  the  mud  in  the  half-way  house. 

A   SEA-BREEZE.  25 

The  next  morning,  as  we  proceeded  on  our  journey, 
the  road  gradually  improved  as  the  country  became 
more  open.  We  were  much  refreshed  by  a  light  breeze 
off  the  sea,  which  we  found  a  very  agreeable  change 
from  the  damp  and  suffocating  heat  of  the  forest ;  and 
about  mid-day,  after  a  pleasant  forenoon's  walk,  we 
strolled  into  the  city  of  Panama. 



ON  our  arrival  we  found  the  population  busily 
employed  in  celebrating  one  of  their  innumerable 
dias  de  fiesta.  The  streets  presented  a  very  gay 
appearance.  The  natives,  all  in  their  gala-dresses, 
were  going  the  rounds  of  the  numerous  gaudily- 
ornamented  altars  which  had  been  erected  through- 
out the  town  ;  and  mingled  with  the  crowd  were 
numbers  of  Americans  in  every  variety  of  California 
emigrant  costume.  The  scene  was  further  enlivened 
by  the  music,  or  rather  the  noise,  of  fifes,  drums, 
and  fiddles,  with  singing  and  chanting  inside  the 
churches,  together  with  squibs  and  crackers,  the 
firing  of  cannon,  and  the  continual  ringing  of  bells. 
The  town  is  built  on  a  small  promontory,  and  is 
protected,  on  the  two  sides  facing  the  sea,  by  batter- 
ies, and,  on  the  land  side,  by  a  high  wall  and  a  moat. 
A  large  portion  of  the  town,  however,  lies  on  the  out- 
side of  this. 


Most  of  the  houses  are  built  of  wood,  two  storeys 
high,  painted  with  bright  colours,  and  with  a  corridor 
and  verandah  on  the  upper  storey  ;  but  the  best 
houses  are  of  stone,  or  sun-dried  bricks  plastered  over 
and  painted. 

The  churches  are  all  of  the  same  style  of  archi- 
tecture which  prevails  throughout  Spanish  Ame- 
rica. They  appeared  to  be  in  a  very  neglected  state, 
bushes,  and  even  trees,  growing  out  of  the  crevices 
of  the  stones.  The  towers  and  pinnacles  are  orna- 
mented with  a  profusion  of  pearl-oyster  shells,  which, 
shining  brightly  in  the  sun,  produce  a  very  curious 

On  the  altars  is  a  great  display  of  gold  and  silver 
ornaments  and  images  ;  but  the  interiors,  in  other  re- 
spects, are  quite  in  keeping  with  the  dilapidated  un- 
cared-for appearance  of  the  outside  of  the  buildings. 

The  natives  are  white,  black,  and  every  interme- 
diate shade  of  colour,  being  a  mixture  of  Spanish, 
Negro,  and  Indian  blood.  Many  of  the  women  are 
very  handsome,  and  on  Sundays  and  holidays  they 
dress  very  showily,  mostly  in  white  dresses,  with 
bright-coloured  ribbons,  red  or  yellow  slippers  with- 
out stockings,  flowers  in  their  hair,  and  round  their 
necks,  gold  chains,  frequently  composed  of  coins  of 
various  sizes  linked  together.  They  have  a  fashion 
of  making  their  hair  useful  as  well  as  ornamental, 
and  it  is  not  unusual  to  see  the  ends  of  three  or  four 
half-smoked  cigars  sticking  out  from  the  folds  of 
their  hair  at  the  back  of  the  head  ;  for  though  they 


srnoke  a  great  deal,  they  never  seem  to  finish  a  cigar 
at  one  smoking.  It  is  amusing  to  watch  the  old 
women  going  to  church.  They  come  up  smoking 
vigorously,  with  a  cigar  in  full  blast,  but,  when  they 
get  near  the  door,  they  reverse  it,  putting  the  lighted 
end  into  their  mouth,  and  in  this  way  they  take  half- 
a-dozen  stiff  pulls  at  it,  which  seems  to  have  the 
effect  of  putting  it  out.  They  then  stow  away  the 
stump  in  some  of  the  recesses  of  their  "  back  hair," 
to  be  smoked  out  on  a  future  occasion. 

The  native  population  of  Panama  is  about  eight 
thousand,  but  at  this  time  there  was  also  a  floating 
population  of  Americans,  varying  from  two  to  three 
thousand,  all  on  their  way  to  California ;  some  being 
detained  for  two  or  three  months  waiting  for  a 
steamer  to  come  round  the  Horn,  some  waiting  for 
sailing  vessels,  while  others,  more  fortunate,  found 
the  steamer,  for  which  they  had  tickets,  ready  for 
them  on  their  arrival.  Passengers  returning  from 
San  Francisco  did  not  remain  any  time  in  Panama, 
but  went  right  on  across  the  Isthmus  to  Chagres. 

The  Americans,  though  so  greatly  inferior  in  num- 
bers to  the  natives,  displayed  so  much  more  life  and 
activity,  even  in  doing  nothing,  that  they  formed  by 
far  the  more  prominent  portion  of  the  population. 
The  main  street  of  the  town  was  densely  crowded, 
day  and  night,  with  Americans  in  bright  red  flannel 
shirts,  with  the  universal  revolver  and  bowie-knife 
conspicuously  displayed  at  their  backs. 

Most  of  the  principal  houses  in  the  town  had  been 


converted  into  hotels,  which  were  kept  by  Ameri- 
cans, and  bore,  upon  large  signs,  the  favourite  hotel 
names  of  the  United  States.  There  was  also  num- 
bers of  large  American  stores  or  shops,  of  various 
descriptions,  equally  obtruding  upon  the  attention 
of  the  public  by  the  extent  of  their  English  signs, 
while,  by  a  few  lines  of  bad  Spanish  scrawled  on  a 
piece  of  paper  at  the  side  of  the  door,  the  poor 
natives  were  informed,  as  a  mere  matter  of  courtesy, 
that  they  also  might  enter  in  and  buy,  if  they  had  the 
wherewithal  to  pay.  Here  and  there,  indeed,  some 
native,  with  more  enterprise  than  his  neighbours, 
intimated  to  the  public — that  is  to  say,  to  the  Ameri- 
cans —  in  a  very  modest  sign,  and  in  very  bad 
English,  that  he  had  something  or  other  to  sell ;  but 
his  energy  was  all  theoretical,  for  on  going  into  his 
store  you  would  find  him  half  asleep  in  his  ham- 
mock, out  of  which  he  would  not  rouse  himself  if  he 
could  possibly  avoid  it.  You  were  welcome  to  buy 
as  much  as  you  pleased ;  but  he  seemed  to  think  it 
very  hard  that  you  could  not  do  so  without  giving 
him  at  the  same  time  the  trouble  of  selling. 

Although  all  foreigners  were  spoken  of  as  "los 
Americanos"  by  the  natives,  there  were  among  them 
men  from  every  country  in  Europe.  The  Frenchmen 
were  the  most  numerous,  some  of  whom  kept  stores 
and  very  good  restaurants.  There  were  also  several 
large  gambling  saloons,  which  were  always  crowded, 
especially  on  Sundays,  with  natives  and  Americans 
gambling  at  the  Spanish  game  of  "  Monte  ;"  and,  of 

30  LIVING. 

course,  specimens  were  not  wanting  of  that  great 
American  institution,  the  drinking  saloon,  at  the 
bars  of  which  a  brisk  business  was  done  in  brandy- 
smashes,  whisky-skins,  and  all  the  other  refreshing 
compounds  for  which  the  Americans  are  so  justly 

Living  in  Panama  was  pretty  hard.  The  hotels 
were  all  crammed  full;  the  accommodation  they 
afforded  was  somewhat  in  the  same  style  as  at  Gor- 
gona,  and  they  were  consequently  not  very  inviting 
places.  Those  who  did  not  live  in  hotels  had  sleep- 
ing-quarters in  private  houses,  and  resorted  to  the 
restaurants  for  their  meals,  which  was  a  much  more 
comfortable  mode  of  life. 

Ham,  beans,  chickens,  eggs,  and  rice,  were  the 
principal  articles  of  food.  The  beef  was  dreadfully 
tough,  stringy,  and  tasteless,  and  was  hardly  ever 
eaten  by  the  Americans,  as  it  was  generally  found  to 
be  very  unwholesome. 

There  was  here  at  this  time  a  great  deal  of  sick- 
ness, and  absolute  misery,  among  the  Americans. 
Diarrhoea  and  fever  were  the  prevalent  diseases. 
The  deaths  were  very  numerous,  but  were  frequently 
either  the  result  of  the  imprudence  of  the  patient 
himself,  or  of  the  total  indifference  as  to  his  fate  on 
the  part  of  his  neighbours,  and  the  consequent  want 
of  any  care  or  attendance  whatever.  The  heartless 
selfishness  one  saw  and  heard  of  was  truly  disgusting. 
The  principle  of  "  every  man  for  himself"  was  most 
strictly  followed  out,  and  a  sick  man  seemed  to  be 


looked  upon  as  a  thing  to  be  avoided,  as  a  hindrance 
to  one's  own  individual  progress. 

There  was  an  hospital  attended  by  American 
physicians,  and  supported  to  a  great  extent  by  Cali- 
fornian  generosity  ;  but  it  was  quite  incapable  of 
accommodating  all  the  sick ;  and  many  a  poor  fellow, 
having  exhausted  his  funds  during  his  long  deten- 
tion here,  found,  when  he  fell  sick,  that  in  parting 
with  his  money  he  had  lost  the  only  friend  he  had, 
and  was  allowed  to  die,  as  little  cared  for  as  if  he 
had  been  a  dog. 

An  American  characteristic  is  a  weakness  for 
quack  medicines  and  specifics,  and  numbers  of  men 
here  fell  victims  to  the  national  mania,  chiefly 
Yankees  and  Western  men.  Persons  coming  from  a 
northern  climate  to  such  a  place  as  Panama,  are  natu- 
rally apt  at  first  to  experience  some  slight  derange- 
ment of  their  general  health,  which,  with  proper 
treatment,  is  easily  rectified  ;  but  these  fellows  were 
all  provided  with  cholera  preventive,  fever  preven- 
tive, and  boxes  of  pills  for  the  prevention  and  the 
cure  of  every  known  disease.  The  moment  they 
imagined  that  there  was  anything  wrong  with  them, 
they  became  alarmed,  and  dosed  themselves  with  all 
the  medicines  they  could  get  hold  of,  so  that  when 
they  really  were  taken  ill,  they  were  already  half 
poisoned  with  the  stuff  they  had  been  swallowing. 
Many  killed  themselves  by  excessive  drinking  of  the 
wretched  liquor  which  was  sold  under  the  name  of 
brandy,  and  others,  by  eating  ravenously  of  fruit, 


green  or  ripe,  at  all  hours  of  the  day,  or  by  living,  for 
the  sake  of  economy,  on  gingerbread  and  spruce-beer, 
which  are  also  American  weaknesses,  and  of  which 
there  were  several  enterprising  Yankee  manufacturers. 

The  sickness  was  no  doubt  much  increased  by  the 
outrageously  filthy  state  of  the  town.  There  seemed 
to  be  absolutely  no  arrangement  for  cleanliness  what- 
ever, and  the  heavy  rains  which  fell,  and  washed 
down  the  streets,  were  all  that  saved  the  town  from 
being  swallowed  up  in  the  accumulation  of  its  own 

Among  the  Americans  en  route  for  California  were 
men  of  all  classes — professional  men,  merchants,  labour- 
ers, sailors,  farmers,  mechanics,  and  numbers  of  long 
gaunt  Western  men,  with  rifles  as  long  as  themselves. 
The  hotels  were  too  crowded  to  allow  of  any  distinc- 
tion of  persons,  and  they  were  accordingly  conducted 
on  ultra-democratic  principles.  Some  faint  idea  of 
the  style  of  thing  might  be  formed  from  a  notice 
which  was  posted  up  in  the  bar-room  of  the  most 
fashionable  hotel.  It  ran  as  follows  :  "  Gentlemen 
are  requested  to  wear  their  coats  at  table,  if  they  have 
them  handy."  This  intimation,  of  course,  in  effect 
amounted  to  nothing  at  all,  but  at  the  same  time 
there  was  a  great  deal  in  it.  It  showed  that  the 
landlord,  being  above  vulgar  prejudices  himself,  saw 
the  necessity,  in  order  to  please  all  his  guests,  of 
overcoming  the  mutual  prejudices  existing  between 
broadcloth  and  fine  linen,  and  red  flannel  with  no 
linen, — sanctioning  the  wearing  of  coats  at  table  on 

THE   FOURTH    OF   JULY.  33 

the  part  of  the  former,  by  making  a  public  request 
that  they  would  do  so,  while,  of  the  shirt-sleeve 
gentlemen,  those  who  had  coats,  and  refused  to  wear 
them,  could  still  glory  in  the  knowledge  that  they 
were  defying  all  interference  with  their  individual 
rights  ;  and  in  behalf  of  the  really  coatless,  those  who 
could  not  call  a  coat  their  own,  the  idea  was  kindly 
suggested  that  that  garment  was  only  absent,  because 
it  was  not  "  handy." 

As  may  be  supposed,  such  a  large  and  motley  popu- 
lation of  foreigners,  confined  in  such  a  place  as 
Panama,  without  any  occupation,  were  not  remark- 
ably quiet  or  orderly.  Gambling,  drinking,  and  cock- 
fighting  were  the  principal  amusements ;  and  drunken 
rows  and  fights,  in  which  pistols  and  knives  were 
freely  used,  were  of  frequent  occurrence. 

The  4th  of  July  was  celebrated  by  the  Americans 
in  great  style.  The  proceedings  were  conducted  as 
is  customary  on  such  occasions  in  the  United  States. 
A  procession  was  formed,  which,  headed  by  a  number 
of  fiddles,  drums,  bugles,  and  other  instruments,  all 
playing  "  Yankee  Doodle "  in  a  very  free  and  inde- 
pendent manner,  marched  to  the  place  of  celebration, 
a  circular  canvass  structure,  where  a  circus  company 
had  been  giving  performances.  When  all  were  as- 
sembled, the  Declaration  of  Independence  was  read, 
and  the  orator  of  the  day  made  a  flaming  speech  on 
the  subject  of  George  III.  and  the  Universal  Yankee 
nation.  A  gentleman  then  got  up,  and,  speaking  in 
Spanish,  explained  to  the  native  portion  of  the  as- 


sembly  what  all  the  row  was  about ;  after  which 
the  meeting  dispersed,  and  the  further  celebration  of 
the  day  was  continued  at  the  bars  of  the  different 

I  met  with  an  accident  here  which  laid  me  up  for 
several  weeks.  I  suffered  a  good  deal,  and  passed  a 
most  weary  time.  All  the  books  I  could  get  hold  of 
did  not  last  me  more  than  a  few  days,  and  I  had  then 
no  other  pastime  than  to  watch  the  humming-birds 
buzzing  about  the  flowers  which  grew  around  my 

As  soon  as  I  was  able  to  walk,  I  took  passage  in  a 
barque  about  to  sail  for  San  Francisco.  She  carried 
about  forty  passengers  ;  and  as  she  had  ample  cabin 
accommodation,  we  were  so  far  comfortable  enough. 
The  company  was,  as  might  be  expected,  very  miscel- 
laneous. Some  were  respectable  men,  and  others  were 
precious  vagabonds.  When  we  had  been  out  but  a 
few  days,  a  fever  broke  out  on  board,  which  was  not, 
however,  of  a  very  serious  character.  I  got  a  touch 
of  it,  and  could  have  cured  myself  very  easily,  but 
there  was  a  man  on  board  who  passed  for  a  doctor, 
having  shipped  as  such  :  he  had  been  physicking  the 
others,  and  I  reluctantly  consented  to  allow  him  to 
doctor  me  also.  He  began  by  giving  me  some  horrible 
emetic,  which,  however,  had  no  effect ;  so  he  continued 
to  repeat  it,  dose  after  dose,  each  dose  half  a  tumbler- 
ful, with  still  no  effect,  till,  at  last,  he  had  given  me 
so  much  of  it,  that  he  began  to  be  alarmed  for  the 
consequences.  I  was  a  little  alarmed  myself,  and 


putting  my  finger  down  my  throat,  I  very  soon  re- 
lieved myself  of  all  his  villanous  compounds.  I  think 
I  fainted  after  it.  I  know  I  felt  as  if  I  was  going  to 
faint,  and  shortly  afterwards  was  sensible  of  a  lapse 
of  time  which  I  could  not  account  for ;  but  on  inquir- 
ing of  some  of  my  fellow-passengers,  I  could  find  no 
one  who  had  so  far  interested  himself  on  my  account 
as  to  be  able  to  give  me  any  information  on  the 

I  took  my  own  case  in  hand  after  that,  and  very 
soon  got  rid  of  the  fever,  although  the  emetic  treat- 
ment had  so  used  me  up  that  for  a  fortnight  I  was 
hardly  able  to  stand.  We  afterwards  discovered  that 
this  man  was  only  now  making  his  debut  as  a  physi- 
cian. He  had  graduated,  however,  as  a  shoemaker,  a 
farmer,  and  I  don't  know  what  else  besides  ;  latterly 
he  had  practised  as  a  horse-dealer,  and  I  have  no 
doubt  it  was  some  horse-medicine  which  he  adminis- 
tered to  me  so  freely. 

We  had  only  two  deaths  on  board,  and  in  justice 
to  the  doctor,  I  must  say  he  was  not  considered  to 
have  been  the  cause  of  either  of  them.  One  case  was 
that  of  a  young  man,  who,  while  the  doctor  was  treat- 
ing him  for  fever,  was  at  the  same  time  privately 
treating  himself  to  large  doses,  taken  frequently,  of 
bad  brandy,  of  which  he  had  an  ample  stock  stowed 
away  under  his  bed.  About  a  day  and  a  half  settled 
him.  The  other  was  a  much  more  melancholy  case. 
He  was  a  young  Swede — such  a  delicate,  effeminate 
fellow  that  he  seemed  quite  out  of  place  among  the 


rough  and  noisy  characters  who  formed  the  rest  of 
the  party.  A  few  days  before  we  left  Panama,  a 
steamer  had  arrived  from  San  Francisco  with  a  great 
many  cases  of  cholera  on  board.  Numerous  deaths 
had  occurred  in  Panama,  and  considerable  alarm  pre- 
vailed there  in  consequence.  The  Swede  was  attacked 
with  fever  like  the  rest  of  us,  but  he  had  no  force  in 
him,  either  mental  or  bodily,  to  bear  up  against  sick- 
ness under  such  circumstances ;  and  the  fear  of  cholera 
had  taken  such  possession  of  him,  that  he  insisted 
upon  it  that  he  had  cholera,  and  that  he  would  die  of 
it  that  night.  His  lamentations  were  most  piteous, 
but  ah1  attempts  to  reassure  him  were  in  vain.  He 
very  soon  became  delirious,  and  died  raving  before 
morning.  None  of  us  were  doctors  enough  to  know 
exactly  what  he  died  of,  but  the  general  belief  was 
that  he  frightened  himself  to  death.  The  church- 
service  was  read  over  him  by  the  supercargo,  many 
of  the  passengers  merely  leaving  their  cards  to  be 
present  at  the  ceremony,  and  as  soon  as  he  was 
launched  over  the  side,  resuming  their  game  where 
they  had  been  interrupted ;  and  this,  moreover,  was  on 
a  Sunday  morning.  In  future  the  captain  prohibited 
all  card-playing  on  Sundays,  but  throughout  the 
voyage  nearly  one-half  of  the  passengers  spent  the 
whole  day,  and  half  the  night,  in  playing  the  favourite 
game  of  "  Poker,"  which  is  something  like  Brag,  and  at 
which  they  cheated  each  other  in  the  most  barefaced 
manner,  so  causing  perpetual  quarrels,  which,  how- 
ever, never  ended  in  a  fight — for  the  reason,  as  it 

SHORT    OF   GRUB.  37 

seemed  to  me,  that  as  every  one  wore  his  bowie-knife, 
the  prospect  of  getting  his  opponent's  knife  between 
his  ribs  deterred  each  man  from  drawing  his  own,  or 
offering  any  violence  whatever. 

The  poor  Swede  had  no  friends  on  board  ;  nobody 
knew  who  he  was,  where  he  came  from,  or  anything 
at  all  about  him  ;  and  so  his  effects  were,  a  few  days 
after  his  death,  sold  at  auction  by  order  of  the 
captain,  one  of  the  passengers,  who  had  been  an 
auctioneer  in  the  States,  officiating  on  the  occasion. 

Great  rascalities  were  frequently  practised  at  this 
time  by  those  engaged  in  conveying  passengers,  in 
sailing  vessels,  from  Panama  to  San  Francisco.  There 
were  such  numbers  of  men  waiting  anxiously  in 
Panama  to  take  the  first  opportunity,  that  offered,  of 
reaching  California,  that  there  was  no  difficulty  in 
filling  any  old  tub  of  a  ship  with  passengers ;  and, 
when  once  men  arrived  in  San  Francisco,  they  were 
generally  too  much  occupied  in  making  dollars,  to 
give  any  trouble  on  account  of  the  treatment  they 
had  received  on  the  voyage. 

Many  vessels  were  consequently  despatched  with 
a  load  of  passengers,  most  shamefully  ill  supplied 
with  provisions,  even  what  they  had  being  of  the 
most  inferior  quality;  and  it  often  happened  that  they 
had  to  touch  in  distress  at  the  intermediate  ports  for 
the  ordinary  necessaries  of  life. 

We  very  soon  found  that  our  ship  was  no  ex- 
ception. For  the  first  few  days  we  fared  pretty  well, 
but,  by  degrees,  one  article  after  another  became  used 


up ;  and  by  the  time  \ve  had  been  out  a  fortnight,  we 
had  absolutely  nothing  to  eat  and  drink,  but  salt 
pork,  musty  flour,  and  bad  coffee — no  mustard, 
vinegar,  sugar,  pepper,  or  anything  of  the  sort,  to 
render  such  food  at  all  palatable,  It  may  be  imagined 
how  delightful  it  was,  in  recovering  from  fever,  when 
one  naturally  has  a  craving  for  something  good  to 
eat,  to  have  no  greater  delicacy  in  the  way  of  nour- 
ishment, than  gruel  made  of  musty  flour,  au  naturel. 

There  was  great  indignation  among  the  passengers. 
A  lot  of  California  emigrants  are  not  a  crowd  to  be 
trifled  with,  and  the  idea  of  pitching  the  supercargo 
overboard  was  quite  seriously  entertained  ;  but,  for- 
tunately for  himself,  he  was  a  very  plausible  man, 
and  succeeded  in  talking  them  into  the  belief  that 
he  was  not  to  blame. 

We  would  have  gone  into  some  port  for  supplies, 
but,  of  such  grub  as  we  had,  there  was  no  scarcity  on 
board,  and  we  preferred  making  the  most  of  it  to  in- 
curring delay  by  going  in  on  the  coast,  where  calms 
and  light  winds  are  so  prevalent. 

We  killed  a  porpoise  occasionally,  and  eat  him. 
The  liver  is  the  best  part,  and  the  only  part  generally 
eaten,  being  something  like  pig's  liver,  and  by  no 
means  bad.  I  had  frequently  tasted  the  meat  at  sea 
before ;  it  is  exceedingly  hard,  tough,  and  stringy,  like 
the  very  worst  beefsteak  that  can  possibly  be  imagined ; 
and  I  used  to  think  it  barely  eatable,  when  thoroughly 
disguised  in  sauce  and  spices,  but  now,  after  being  so 
long  under  a  severe  salt- pork  treatment,  I  thought 

DINING   OUT.  39 

porpoise  steak  a  very  delicious  dish,  even    without 
any  condiment  to  heighten  its  intrinsic  excellence. 

We  had  been  out  about  six  weeks,  when  we  sighted 
a  ship,  many  miles  off,  going  the  same  way  as  our- 
selves, and  the  captain  determined  to  board  her,  and 
endeavour  to  get  some  of  the  articles  of  which  we 
were  so  much  in  need.  There  was  great  excitement 
among  the  passengers  ;  all  wanted  to  accompany  the 
captain  in  his  boat,  but,  to  avoid  making  invidious 
distinctions,  he  refused  to  take  any  one  unless  he 
would  pull  an  oar.  I  was  one  of  four  who  volunteered 
to  do  so,  and  we  left  the  ship  amid  clamorous  in- 
junctions not  to  forget  sugar,  beef,  molasses,  vinegar, 
and  so  on — whatever  each  man  most  longed  for.  We 
had  four  or  five  Frenchmen  on  board,  who  earnestly 
entreated  me  to  get  them  even  one  bottle  of  oil. 

We  had  a  long  pull,  as  the  stranger  was  in  no 
hurry  to  heave-to  for  us  ;  and  on  coming  up  to  her, 
we  found  her  to  be  a  Scotch  barque,  bound  also  for 
San  Francisco,  without  passengers,  but  very  nearly  as 
badly  off  as  ourselves.  She  could  not  spare  us  any- 
thing at  all,  but  the  captain  gave  us  an  invitation  to 
dinner,  which  we  accepted  with  the  greatest  pleasure. 
It  was  Sunday,  and  so  the  dinner  was  of  course  the 
best  they  could  get  up.  It  only  consisted  of  fresh 
pork  (the  remains  of  their  last  pig),  and  duff;  but  with 
mustard  to  the  pork,  and  sugar  to  the  duff,  it  seemed 
to  us  a  most  sumptuous  banquet ;  and,  not  having  the 
immediate  prospect  of  such  another  for  some  time  to 
come,  we  made  the  most  of  the  present  opportunity. 


In  fact,  we  cleared  the  table.  I  don't  know  what  the 
Scotch  skipper  thought  of  us,  but  if  he  really  could 
have  spared  us  anything,  the  ravenous  way  in  which 
we  demolished  his  dinner  would  surely  have  softened 
his  heart. 

On  arriving  again  alongside  our  own  ship,  with 
the  boat  empty  as  when  we  left  her,  we  were 
greeted  by  a  row  of  very  long  faces  looking  down  on 
us  over  the  side  ;  not  a  word  was  said,  because  they 
had  watched  us  with  the  glass  leaving  the  other 
vessel,  and  had  seen  that  nothing  was  handed  into 
the  boat;  and  when  we  described  the  splendid  dinner 
we  had  just  eaten,  the  faces  lengthened  so  much,  and 
assumed  such  a  very  wistful  expression,  that  it  seemed 
a  wanton  piece  of  cruelty  to  have  mentioned  the 
circumstance  at  all. 

But,  after  all,  our  hard  fare  did  not  cause  us  much 
distress  :  we  got  used  to  it,  and  besides,  a  passage  to 
California  was  not  like  a  passage  to  any  other  place. 
Every  one  was  so  confident  of  acquiring  an  immense 
fortune  there  in  an  incredibly  short  time,  that  he 
was  already  making  his  plans  for  the  future  enjoy- 
ment of  it,  and  present  difficulties  and  hardships 
were  not  sufficiently  appreciated. 

The  time  passed  pleasantly  enough  ;  all  were  dis- 
posed to  be  cheerful,  and  amongst  so  many  men  there 
are  always  some  who  afford  amusement  for  the  rest. 
Many  found  constant  occupation  in  trading  off  their 
coats,  hats,  boots,  trunks,  or  anything  they  possessed. 


I  think  scarcely  any  one  went  ashore  in  San  Francisco 
with  a  single  article  of  clothing  which  he  possessed 
in  Panama;  and  there  was  hardly  an  article  of  any 
man's  wardrobe,  which,  by  the  time  our  voyage  was 
over,  had  not  at  one  time  been  the  property  of  every 
other  man  on  board  the  ship. 

We  had  one  cantankerous  old  Englishman  on 
board,  who  used  to  roll  out,  most  volubly,  good  round 
English  oaths,  greatly  to  the  amusement  of  some  of 
the  American  passengers,  for  the  English  style  of 
cursing  and  swearing  is  very  different  from  that 
which  prevails  in  the  States.  This  old  fellow  was 
made  a  butt  for  all  manner  of  practical  jokes.  He 
had  a  way  of  going  to  sleep  during  the  day  in  all 
sorts  of  places;  and  when  the  dinner-bell  rang,  he 
would  find  himself  tied  hand  and  foot.  They  sewed 
up  the  sleeves  of  his  coat,  and  then  bet  him  long 
odds  he  could  not  put  it  on,  and  take  it  off  again, 
within  a  minute.  They  made  up  cigars  for  him  with 
some  powder  in  the  inside  ;  and  in  fact  the  jokes 
played  off  upon  him  were  endless,  the  great  fun 
being,  apparently,  to  hear  him  swear,  which  he  did 
most  heartily.  He  always  fancied  himself  ill,  and 
said  that  quinine  was  the  only  thing  that  would  save 
him ;  but  the  quinine,  like  everything  else  on  board,  was 
all  used  up.  However,  one  man  put  up  some  papers 
of  flour  and  salt,  and  gave  them  to  him  as  quinine, 
saying  he  had  just  found  them  in  looking  over  his 
trunk.  Constant  inquiries  were  then  made  after  the 


old  man's  health,  when  he  declared  the  quinine  was 
doing  him  a  world  of  good,  and  that  his  appetite  was 
much  improved. 

He  was  so  much  teased  at  last  that  he  used  to  go 
about  with  a  naked  bowie-knife  in  his  hand,  with 
which  he  threatened  to  do  awful  things  to  whoever 
interfered  with  him.  But  even  this  did  not  secure 
him  much  peace,  and  he  was  such  a  dreadfully 
crabbed  old  rascal,  that  I  thought  the  stirring-up  he 
got  was  quite  necessary  to  keep  him  sweet. 

After  a  wretchedly  long  passage,  during  which  we 
experienced  nothing  but  calms,  light  winds,  and 
heavy  contrary  gales,  we  entered  the  Golden  Gates 
of  San  Francisco  harbour  with  the  first  and  only  fair 
wind  we  were  favoured  with,  and  came  to  anchor 
before  the  city  about  eight  o'clock  in  the  evening. 



THE  entrance  to  San  Francisco  harbour  is  between 
precipitous  rocky  headlands  about  a  mile  apart, 
and  which  have  received  the  name  of  the  Golden 
Gates.  The  harbour  itself  is  a  large  sheet  of.  water, 
twelve  miles  across  at  its  widest  point,  and  in  length 
forty  or  fifty  miles,  getting  gradually  narrower  till 
at  last  it  becomes  a  mere  creek. 

On  the  north  side  of  the  harbour  falls  in  the  Sacra- 
mento, a  large  river,  to  which  all  the  other  rivers  of 
California  are  tributary,  and  which  is  navigable  for 
large  vessels  as  far  as  Sacramento  city,  a  distance  of 
nearly  two  hundred  miles. 

The  city  of  San  Francisco  lies  on  the  south  shore, 
nearly  opposite  the  mouth  of  the  Sacramento,  and 
four  or  five  miles  from  the  ocean.  It  is  built  on  a 
semicircular  inlet,  about  two  miles  across,  at  the  foot 
of  a  succession  of  bleak  sandy  hills,  covered  here  and 
there  with  scrubby  brushwood.  Before  the  discovery 

44  THE   HOUSES. 

of  gold  in  the  country,  it  consisted  merely  of  a  few 
small  houses  occupied  by  native  Californians,  and 
one  or  two  foreign  merchants  engaged  in  the  export 
of  hides  and  horns.  The  harbour  was  also  a  favour- 
ite watering-place  for  whalers  and  men-of-war,  cruis- 
ing in  that  part  of  the  world. 

At  the  time  of  our  arrival  in  1851,  hardly  a  vestige 
remained  of  the  original  village.  Everything  bore 
evidence  of  newness,  and  the  greater  part  of  the  city 
presented  a  makeshift  and  temporary  appearance, 
being  composed  of  the  most  motley  collection  of 
edifices,  in  the  way  of  houses,  which  can  well  be 
conceived.  Some  were  mere  tents,  with  perhaps  a 
wooden  front  sufficiently  strong  to  support  the  sign 
of  the  occupant ;  some  were  composed  of  sheets  of 
zinc  on  a  wooden  framework  ;  there  were  numbers  of 
corrugated  iron  houses,  the  most  unsightly  things 
possible,  and  generally  painted  brown ;  there  were 
many  imported  American  houses,  all,  of  course, 
painted  white,  with  green  shutters ;  also  dingy-looking 
Chinese  houses,  and  occasionally  some  substantial 
brick  buildings  ;  but  the  great  majority  were  nonde- 
script, shapeless,  patchwork  concerns,  in  the  fabrica- 
tion of  which,  sheet-iron,  wood,  zinc,  and  canvass, 
seemed  to  have  been  employed  indiscriminately; 
while  here  and  there,  in  the  middle  of  a  row  of  such 
houses,  appeared  the  hulk  of  a  ship,  which  had  been 
hauled  up,  and  now  served  as  a  warehouse,  the  cabins 
being  fitted  up  as  offices,  or  sometimes  converted 
into  a  boarding-house. 

THE   PLAZA.  45 

The  hills  rose  so  abruptly  from  the  shore  that  there 
was  not  room  for  the  rapid  extension  of  the  city,  and 
as  sites  were  more  valuable,  as  they  were  nearer  the 
shipping,  the  first  growth  of  the  city  was  out  into 
the  bay.  Already  houses  had  been  built  out  on  piles 
for  nearly  half-a-mile  beyond  the  original  high-water 
mark  ;  and  it  was  thus  that  ships,  having  been  hauled 
up  and  built  in,  came  to  occupy  a  position  so  com- 
pletely out  of  their  element.  The  hills  are  of  a  very 
loose  sandy  soil,  and  were  consequently  easily  graded 
sufficiently  to  admit  of  being  built  upon ;  and  what 
was  removed  from  the  hills  was  used  to  fill  up  the 
space  gained  from  the  bay.  This  has  been  done  to 
such  an  extent,  that  at  the  present  day  the  whole  of 
the  business  part  of  the  city  of  San  Francisco  stands 
on  solid  ground,  where  a  few  years  ago  large  ships 
lay  at  anchor ;  and  what  was  then  high-water  mark 
is  now  more  than  a  mile  inland. 

The  principal  street  of  the  town  was  about  three- 
quarters  of  a  mile  long,  and  in  it  were  most  of  the 
bankers'  offices,  the  principal  stores,  some  of  the  best 
restaurants,  and  numerous  drinking  and  gambling 

In  the  Plaza,  a  large  open  square,  was  the  only 
remaining  house  of  the  San  Francisco  of  other  days — 
a  small  cottage  built  of  sun-dried  bricks.  Two  sides 
of  the  Plaza  were  composed  of  the  most  imposing- 
looking  houses  in  the  city,  some  of  which  were  of 
brick  several  stories  high ;  others,  though  of  wood, 
were  large  buildings  with  handsome  fronts  in  imita- 


tion  of  stone,  and  nearly  every  one  of  them  was  a 

Scattered  over  the  hills  overhanging  the  town, 
apparently  at  random,  but  all  on  specified  lots,  on 
streets  which  as  yet  were  only  defined  by  rude  fences, 
were  habitations  of  various  descriptions,  handsome 
wooden  houses  of  three  or  four  storeys,  neat  little 
cottages,  iron  houses,  and  tents  innumerable. 

Eents  were  exorbitantly  high,  and  servants  were 
hardly  to  be  had  for  money  ;  housekeeping  was  con- 
sequently only  undertaken  by  those  who  did  not  fear 
the  expense,  and  who  were  so  fortunate  as  to  have 
their  families  with  them.  The  population,  however, 
consisted  chiefly  of  single  men,  and  the  usual  style  of 
living  was  to  have  some  sort  of  room  to  sleep  in,  and 
to  board  at  a  restaurant.  But  even  a  room  to  one- 
self was  an  expensive  luxury,  and  it  was  more  usual 
for  men  to  sleep  in  their  stores  or  offices.  As  for  a 
bed,  no  one  was  particular  about  that ;  a  shake- 
down on  a  table,  or  on  the  floor,  was  as  common  as 
anything  else,  and  sheets  were  a  luxury  but  little 
thought  of.  Every  man  was  his  own  servant,  and 
his  own  porter  besides.  It  was  nothing  unusual  to 
see  a  respectable  old  gentleman,  perhaps  some  old 
paterfamilias,  who  at  home  would  have  been  horrified 
at  the  idea  of  doing  such  a  thing,  open  his  store  in 
the  morning  himself,  take  a  broom  and  sweep  it  out, 
and  then  proceed  to  blacken  his  boots. 

The  boot-blacking  trade,  however,  was  one  which 
sprung  up  and  flourished  rapidly.     It  was  monopo- 


lised  by  Frenchmen,  and  was  principally  conducted 
in  the  Plaza,  on  the  long  row  of  steps  in  front  of 
the  gambling  saloons.  At  first  the  accommodation 
afforded  was  not  very  great.  One  had  to  stand  upon 
one  foot  and  place  the  other  on  a  little  box,  while  a 
Frenchman,  standing  a  few  steps  below,  operated 
upon  it.  Presently  arm-chairs  were  introduced,  and, 
the  boot-blacks  working  in  partnership,  time  was 
economised  by  both  boots  being  polished  simulta- 
neously. It  was  a  curious  sight  to  see  thirty  or  forty 
men  sitting  in  a  row  in  the  most  public  part  of  the 
city  having  their  boots  blacked,  while  as  many  more 
stood  waiting  for  their  turn.  The  next  improvement 
was  being  accommodated  with  the  morning  papers 
while  undergoing  the  operation  ;  and  finally,  the 
boot-blacking  fraternity,  keeping  pace  with  the  pro- 
gressive spirit  of  the  age,  opened  saloons  furnished 
with  rows  of  easy-chairs  on  a  raised  platform,  in 
which  the  patients  sat  and  read  the  news,  or  admired 
themselves  in  the  mirror  on  the  opposite  wall.  The 
regular  charge  for  having  one's  boots  polished  was 
twenty-five  cents,  an  English  shilling — the  smallest 
sum  worth  mentioning  in  California. 

In  1851,  however,  things  had  not  attained  such  a 
pitch  of  refinement  as  to  render  the  appearance  of  a 
man's  boots  a  matter  of  the  slightest  consequence. 

As  far  as  mere  eating  and  drinking  went,  living 
was  good  enough.  The  market  was  well  supplied 
with  every  description  of  game — venison,  elk,  ante- 
lope, grizzly  bear,  and  an  infinite  variety  of  wild- 

48  FISH   AND    GAME. 

fowl.  The  harbour  abounded  with  fish,  and  the  Sac- 
ramento river  was  full  of  splendid  salmon,  equal  in 
flavour  to  those  of  the  Scottish  rivers,  though  in 
appearance  not  quite  such  a  highly-finished  fish,  being 
rather  clumsy  about  the  tail. 

Vegetables  were  not  so  plentiful.  Potatoes  and 
onions,  as  fine  as  any  in  the  world,  were  the  great 
stand-by.  Other  vegetables,  though  scarce,  were  pro- 
duced in  equal  perfection,  and  upon  a  gigantic  scale. 
A  beetroot  weighing  a  hundred  pounds,  and  that 
looked  like  the  trunk  of  a  tree,  was  not  thought  a 
very  remarkable  specimen. 

The  wild  geese  and  ducks  were  extremely  numer- 
ous all  round  the  shores  of  the  bay,  and  many  men, 
chiefly  English  and  French,  who  would  have  scorned 
the  idea  of  selling  their  game  at  home,  here  turned 
their  sporting  abilities  to  good  account,  and  made 
their  guns  a  source  of  handsome  profit.  A  French- 
man with  whom  I  was  acquainted  killed  fifteen 
hundred  dollars'  worth  of  game  in  two  weeks. 

There  were  two  or  three  French  restaurants  nearly 
equal  to  some  of  the  best  in  Paris,  where  the  cheapest 
dinner  one  could  get  cost  three  dollars ;  but  there 
were  also  numbers  of  excellent  French  and  American 
houses,  at  which  one  could  live  much  more  reasonably. 
Good  hotels  were  not  wanting,  but  they  were  ridicu- 
lously extravagant  places ;  and  though  flimsy  concerns, 
built  of  wood,  and  not  presenting  very  ostentatious 
exteriors,  they  were  fitted  up  with  all  the  lavish  dis- 
play which  characterises  the  fashionable  hotels  of 


New  York.  In  fact,  all  places  of  public  resort  were  fur- 
nished and  decorated  in  a  style  of  most  barbaric  splen- 
dour, being  filled  with  the  costliest  French  furniture, 
and  a  profusion  of  immense  mirrors,  gorgeous  gilding, 
magnificent  chandeliers,  and  gold  and  china  ornaments, 
conveying  an  idea  of  luxurious  refinement  which  con- 
trasted strangely  with  the  appearance  and  occupa- 
tions of  the  people  by  whom  they  were  frequented. 

San  Francisco  exhibited  an  immense  amount  of 
vitality  compressed  into  a  small  compass,  and  a  degree 
of  earnestness  was  observable  in  every  action  of  a 
man's  daily  life.  People  lived  more  there  in  a  week 
than  they  would  in  a  year  in  most  other  places. 

In  the  course  of  a  month,  or  a  year,  in  San  Fran- 
cisco, there  was  more  hard  work  done,  more  specula- 
tive schemes  were  conceived  and  executed,  more 
money  was  made  and  lost,  there  was  more  buying  and 
selling,  more  sudden  changes  of  fortune,  more  eating 
and  drinking,  more  smoking,  swearing,  gambling, 
and  tobacco-chewing,  more  crime  and  profligacy, 
and,  at  the  same  time,  more  solid  advancement  made 
by  the  people,  as  a  body,  in  wealth,  prosperity,  and 
the  refinements  of  civilisation,  than  could  be  shown 
in  an  equal  space  of  time  by  any  community  of  the 
same  size  on  the  face  of  the  earth. 

The  every-day  jog-trot  of  ordinary  human  exist- 
ence was  not  a  fast  enough  pace  for  Californians  in 
their  impetuous  pursuit  of  wealth.  The  longest 
period  of  time  ever  thought  of  was  a  month.  Money 
was  loaned,  and  houses  were  rented,  by  the  month  ; 



interest  and  rent  being  invariably  payable  monthly 
and  in  advance.  All  engagements  were  made  by  the 
month,  during  which  period  the  changes  and  contin- 
gencies were  so  great  that  no  one  was  willing  to 
commit  himself  for  a  longer  term.  In  the  space  of  a 
month  the  whole  city  might  be  swept  off  by  fire,  and 
a  totally  new  one  might  be  flourishing  in  its  place. 
So  great  was  the  constant  fluctuation  in  the  prices  of 
goods,  and  so  rash  and  speculative  was  the  usual 
style  of  business,  that  no  great  idea  of  stability  could 
be  attached  to  anything,  and  the  ever-varying  aspect  of 
the  streets,  as  the  houses  were  being  constantly  pulled 
down  and  rebuilt,  was  emblematic  of  the  equally 
varying  fortunes  of  the  inhabitants. 

The  streets  presented  a  scene  of  intense  bustle  and 
excitement.  The  side-walks  were  blocked  up  with 
piles  of  goods,  in  front  of  the  already  crowded 
stores  ;  men  hurried  along  with  the  air  of  having 
the  weight  of  all  the  business  of  California  on  their 
shoulders ;  others  stood  in  groups  at  the  corners 
of  the  streets ;  here  and  there  was  a  drunken  man 
lying  grovelling  in  the  mud,  enjoying  himself  as 
uninterruptedly  as  if  he  were  merely  a  hog  ;  old 
miners,  probably  on  their  way  home,  were  loafing 
about,  staring  at  everything,  in  all  the  glory  of 
mining  costume,  jealous  of  every  inch  of  their  long 
hair  and  flowing  beards,  and  of  every  bit  of  Cali- 
fornia mud  which  adhered  to  their  ragged  old  shirts 
and  patchwork  pantaloons,  as  evidences  that  they,  at 
least,  had  "  seen  the  elephant/' 


Troops  of  newly  arrived  Frenchmen  marched 
along,  en  route  for  the  mines,  staggering  under 
their  equipment  of  knapsacks,  shovels,  picks,  tin 
wash-bowls,  pistols,  knives,  swords,  and  double- 
barrel  guns — their  blankets  slung  over  their  should- 
ers, and  their  persons  hung  around  with  tin  cups, 
frying-pans,  coffee-pots,  and  other  culinary  utensils, 
with  perhaps  a  hatchet  and  a  spare  pair  of  boots. 
Crowds  of  Chinamen  were  also  to  be  seen,  bound 
for  the  diggings,  under  gigantic  basket-hats,  each 
man  with  a  bamboo  laid  across  his  shoulder,  from 
both  ends  of  which  were  suspended  a  higgledy- 
piggledy  collection  of  mining  tools,  Chinese  baskets 
and  boxes,  immense  boots,  and  a  variety  of  Chinese 
"fixins,"  which  no  one  but  a  Chinaman  could  tell  the 
use  of, — all  speaking  at  once,  gabbling  and  chattering 
their  horrid  jargon,  and  producing  a  noise  like  that 
of  a  flock  of  geese.  There  were  continuous  streams 
of  drays  drawn  by  splendid  horses,  and  loaded  with 
merchandise  from  all  parts  of  the  world,  and  horse- 
men galloped  about,  equally  regardless  of  their  own 
and  of  other  men's  lives. 

Two  or  three  auctioneers  might  be  heard  at 
once,  "  crying "  their  goods  with  characteristic  Cali- 
fornia vehemence,  while  some  of  their  neighbours 
in  the  same  line  of  business  were  ringing  bells  to 
collect  an  audience  —  and  at  the  same  time  one's 
ears  were  dinned  with  the  discord  of  half-a-dozen 
brass  bands,  braying  out  different  popular  airs  from 
as  many  different  gambling  saloons.  In  the  midst 


of  it  all,  the  runners,  or  tooters,  for  the  opposition 
river-steamboats,  would  be  cracking  up  the  superi- 
ority of  their  respective  boats  at  the  top  of  their 
lungs,  somewhat  in  this  style :  "  One  dollar  to-night 
for  Sacramento,  by  the  splendid  steamer  Senator, 
the  fastest  boat  that  ever  turned  a  wheel  from  Long 
wharf — with  feather  pillows  and  curled-hair  mattresses, 
mahogany  doors  and  silver  hinges.  She  has  got 
eight  young-lady  passengers  to-night,  that  speak  all 
the  dead  languages,  and  not  a  coloured  man  from 
stem  to  stern  of  her."  Here  an  opposition  runner 
would  let  out  upon  him,  and  the  two  would  slang 
each  other  in  the  choicest  California  Billingsgate  for 
the  amusement  of  the  admiring  crowd. 

Standing  at  the  door  of  a  gambling  saloon,  with 
one  foot  raised  on  the  steps,  would  be  a  well-dressed 
young  man,  playing  thimblerig  on  his  leg  with  a  golden 
pea,  for  the  edification  of  a  crowd  of  gaping  green- 
horns, some  one  of  whom  would  be  sure  to  bite.  Not 
far  off  would  be  found  a  precocious  little  blackguard  of 
fourteen  or  fifteen,  standing  behind  a  cask,  and  play- 
ing on  the  head  of  it  a  sort  of  thimblerig  game  with 
three  cards,  called  "  French  monte."  He  first  shows 
their  faces,  and  names  one — say  the  ace  of  spades — as 
the  winning  card,  and  after  thimblerigging  them  on 
the  head  of  the  cask,  he  lays  them  in  a  row  with  their 
faces  down,  and  goes  on  proclaiming  to  the  public  in  a 
loud  voice  that  the  ace  of  spades  is  the  winning  card, 
and  that  he'll  "bet  any  man  one  or  two  hundred 
dollars  he  can't  pick  up  the  ace  of  spades."  Occasion- 

MUSS."  53 

ally  some  man,  after  watching  the  trick  for  a  little, 
thinks  it  the  easiest  thing  possible  to  tell  which  is  the 
ace  of  spades,  and  loses  his  hundred  dollars  accord- 
ingly, when  the  youngster  pockets  the  money  and  his 
cards,  and  moves  off  to  another  location,  not  being  so 
soft  as  to  repeat  the  joke  too  often,  or  to  take  a 
smaller  bet  than  a  hundred  dollars. 

There  were  also  newsboys  with  their  shrill  voices, 
crying  their  various  papers  with  the  latest  intelligence 
from  all  parts  of  the  world,  and  boys  with  boxes  of 
cigars,  offering  "  the  best  Havannah  cigars  for  a  bit 
a-piece,  as  good  as  you  can  get  in  the  stores  for  a 
quarter/'  A  "  bit''  is  twelve  and  a  half  cents,  or  an 
English  sixpence,  and  for  all  one  could  buy  with  it, 
was  but  little  less  useless  than  an  English  farthing. 

Presently  one  would  hear  "  Hullo !  there's  a  muss !  " 
(Anglice,  a  row),  and  men  would  be  seen  rushing  to 
the  spot  from  all  quarters.  Auction-rooms,  gambling- 
rooms,  stores,  and  drinking-shops  would  be  emptied, 
and  a  mob  collected  in  the  street  in  a  moment.  The 
"muss"  would  probably  be  only  a  difficulty  between 
two  gentlemen,  who  had  referred  it  to  the  arbitration 
of  knives  or  pistols ;  but  if  no  one  was  killed,  the 
mob  would  disperse,  to  resume  their  various  occupa- 
tions, just  as  quickly  as  they  had  collected. 

Some  of  the  principal  streets  were  planked,  as  was 
also,  of  course,  that  part  of  the  city  which  was  built 
on  piles  ;  but  where  there  was  no  planking,  the  mud 
was  ankle-deep,  and  in  many  places  there  were  mud- 
holes,  rendering  the  street  almost  impassable.  The 


streets  were  the  general  receptacle  for  every  descrip- 
tion of  rubbish.  They  were  chiefly  covered  with  bits 
of  broken  boxes  and  casks,  fragments  of  hampers, 
iron  hoops,  old  tin  cases,  and  empty  bottles.  In  the 
vicinity  of  the  numerous  Jew  slop-shops,  they  were 
thickly  strewed  with  old  boots,  hats,  coats,  and  pan- 
taloons; for  the  majority  of  the  population  carried 
their  wardrobe  on  their  backs,  and  when  they  bought 
a  new  article  of  dress,  the  old  one  which  it  was  to 
replace  was  pitched  into  the  street. 

I  often  wondered  that  none  of  the  enterprising 
"  old  clo"  fraternity  ever  opened  a  business  in  Cali- 
fornia. They  might  have  got  shiploads  of  old 
clothes  for  the  trouble  of  picking  them  up.  Some  of 
them,  doubtless,  were  not  worth  the  trouble,  but  there 
were  always  tons  of  cast-off  garments  kicking  about 
the  streets,  which  I  think  an  "  old  clo  "  of  any  ingen- 
uity could  have  rendered  available.  California  was 
often  said  to  be  famous  for  three  things — rats,  fleas, 
and  empty  bottles  ;  but  old  clothes  might  well  have 
been  added  to  the  list. 

The  whole  place  swarmed  with  rats  of  an  enor- 
mous size ;  one  could  hardly  walk  at  night  without 
treading  on  them.  They  destroyed  an  immense 
deal  of  property,  and  a  good  ratting  terrier  was 
worth  his  weight  in  gold  dust.  I  knew  instances, 
however,  of  first-rate  terriers  in  Sacramento  City 
(which  for  rats  beat  San  Francisco  hollow)  becom- 
ing at  last  so  utterly  disgusted  with  killing  rats,  that 


they  ceased  to  consider  it  any  sport  at  all,  and 
allowed  the  rats  to  run  under  their  noses  without 
deigning  to  look  at  them. 

As  for  the  other  industrious  little  animals,  they 
were  a  terrible  nuisance.  I  suppose  they  were  indi- 
genous to  the  sandy  soil.  It  was  quite  a  common 
thing  to  see  a  gentleman  suddenly  pull  up  the  sleeve 
of  his  coat,  or  the  leg  of  his  trousers,  and  smile  in 
triumph  when  he  caught  his  little  tormentor.  After 
a  few  weeks'  residence  in  San  Francisco,  one  became 
naturally  very  expert  at  this  sort  of  thing. 

Of  the  last  article — the  empty  bottles — the  enor- 
mous heaps  of  them,  piled  up  in  all  sorts  of  out-of- 
the-way  places,  suggested  a  consumption  of  liquor 
which  was  truly  awful.  Empty  bottles  were  as  plen- 
tiful as  bricks — and  a  large  city  might  have  been 
built  with  them. 

The  appearance  of  the  people,  being,  as  they  were, 
a  sort  of  world's  show  of  humanity,  was  extremely 
curious  and  diversified.  There  were  Chinamen  in  all 
the  splendour  of  sky-blue  or  purple  figured  silk 
jackets,  and  tight  yellow  satin  continuations,  black 
satin  shoes  with  thick  white  soles,  and  white  gaiters  ; 
a  fan  in  their  hand,  and  a  beautifully  plaited  glossy 
pigtail  hanging  down  to  their  heels  from  under  a 
scarlet  scull- cap,  with  a  gold  knob  on  the  top  of  it. 
These  were  the  swell  Chinamen  ;  the  lower  orders  of 
Celestials  were  generally  dressed  in  immensely  wide 
blue  calico  jackets  and  bags,  for  they  really  could 


not  be  called  trousers,  and  on  their  heads  they  wore 
an  enormous  wickerwork  extinguisher,  which  would 
have  made  a  very  good  family  clothes-basket. 

The  Mexicans  were  very  numerous,  and  wore  their 
national  costume — the  bright-coloured  serape  thrown 
gracefully  over  the  left  shoulder,  with  rows  of  silver 
buttons  down  the  outside  of  their  trousers,  which 
were  generally  left  open,  so  as  to  show  the  loose  white 
drawers  underneath,  and  the  silver-handled  bowie- 
knife  in  the  stamped  leather  leggins. 

Englishmen  seemed  to  adhere  to  the  shooting-coat 
style  of  dress,  and  the  down-east  Yankees  to  their 
eternal  black  dress-coat,  black  pantaloons,  and  black 
satin  waistcoat ;  while  New  Yorkers,  southerners,  and 
Frenchmen,  came  out  in  the  latest  Paris  fashions. 

Those  who  did  not  stick  to  their  former  style  of 
dress,  indulged  in  all  the  extravagant  license  of  Cali- 
fornia costume,  which  was  of  every  variety  that 
caprice  could  suggest.  No  man  could  make  his  ap- 
pearance sufficiently  bizarre  to  attract  any  attention. 
The  prevailing  fashion  among  the  rag -tag  and 
bobtail  was  a  red  or  blue  flannel  shirt,  wide-awake 
hats  of  every  conceivable  shape  and  colour,  and 
trousers  stuffed  into  a  big  pair  of  boots. 

Pistols  and  knives  were  usually  worn  in  the  belt  at 
the  back,  and  to  be  without  either  was  the  exception 
to  the  rule. 

The  few  ladies  who  were  already  in  San  Francisco, 
very  naturally  avoided  appearing  in  public ;  but 
numbers  of  female  toilettes,  of  the  most  extrava- 


gantly  rich  and  gorgeous  materials,  swept  the  muddy 
streets,  and  added  not  a  little  to  the  incongruous 
variety  of  the  scene. 

To  a  cursory  visitor,  auction-sales  and  gambling 
would  have  appeared  two  of  the  principal  features  of 
the  city. 

The  gambling  saloons  were  very  numerous,  occu- 
pying the  most  prominent  positions  in  the  leading- 
thoroughfares,  and  all  of  them  presenting  a  more 
conspicuous  appearance  than  the  generality  of  houses 
around  them.  They  were  thronged  day  and  night, 
and  in  each  was  a  very  good  band  of  music,  the  per- 
formers being  usually  German  or  French, 

On  entering  a  first-class  gambling  room,  one  found 
a  large  well-proportioned  saloon  sixty  or  seventy  feet 
long,  brilliantly  lighted  up  by  several  very  fine  chan- 
deliers, the  walls  decorated  with  ornamental  painting 
and  gilding,  and  hung  with  large  mirrors  and  showy 
pictures,  while  in  an  elevated  projecting  orchestra 
half-a-dozen  Germans  were  playing  operatic  music. 
There  were  a  dozen  or  more  tables  in  the  room, 
each  with  a  compact  crowd  of  eager  betters  around 
it,  and  the  whole  room  was  so  filled  with  men  that 
elbowing  one's  way  between  the  tables  was  a  matter 
of  difficulty.  The  atmosphere  was  quite  hazy  with 
the  quantity  of  tobacco  smoke,  and  was  strongly  im- 
pregnated with  the  fumes  of  brandy.  If  one  hap- 
pened to  enter  while  the  musicians  were  taking  a 
rest,  the  quiet  and  stillness  were  remarkable.  Nothing 
was  heard  but  a  slight  hum  of  voices,  and  the  con- 


stant  chinking  of  money ;  for  it  was  the  fashion,  while 
standing  betting  at  a  table,  to  have  a  lot  of  dollars  in 
one's  hands,  and  to  keep  shuffling  them  backwards 
and  forwards  like  so  many  cards. 

The  people  composing  the  crowd  were  men  of 
every  class,  from  the  highest  to  the  lowest,  and, 
though  the  same  as  might  be  seen  elsewhere,  their 
extraordinary  variety  of  character  and  of  dress 
appeared  still  more  curious  from  their  being  brought 
into  such  close  juxtaposition,  and  apparently  placed 
upon  an  equality.  Seated  round  the  same  table 
might  be  seen  well-dressed  respectable-looking  men, 
and,  alongside  of  them,  rough  miners  fresh  from  the 
diggings,  with  well-filled  buckskin  purses,  dirty  old 
flannel  shirts,  and  shapeless  hats ;  jolly  tars  half-seas 
over,  not  understanding  anything  about  the  game, 
nor  apparently  taking  any  interest  in  it,  but  having 
their  spree  out  at  the  gaming-table  because  it  was  the 
fashion,  and  good-humouredly  losing  their  pile  of 
five  or  six  hundred  or  a  thousand  dollars  ;  Mexicans 
wrapped  up  in  their  blankets  smoking  cigaritas,  and 
watching  the  game  intently  from  under  their  broad- 
brimmed  hats  ;  Frenchmen  in  their  blouses  smoking 
black  pipes  ;  and  little  urchins,  or  little  old  scamps 
rather,  ten  or  twelve  years  of  age,  smoking  cigars  as 
big  as  themselves,  with  the  air  of  men  who  were  quite 
up  to  all  the  hooks  and  crooks  of  this  wicked  world 
(as  indeed  they  were),  and  losing  their  hundred  dol- 
lars at  a  pop  with  all  the  nonchalance  of  an  old 
gambler ;  while  crowds  of  men,  some  dressed  like 


gentlemen,  and  mixed  with  all  sorts  of  nondescript 
ragamuffins,  crowded  round,  and  stretched  over  those 
seated  at  the  tables,  in  order  to  make  their  bets. 

There  were  dirty,  squalid,  villanous  -  looking 
scoundrels,  who  never  looked  straight  out  of  their 
eyes,  but  still  were  always  looking  at  something,  as 
if  they  were  "  making  a  note  of  it,"  and  who  could 
have  made  their  faces  their  fortunes  in  some  parts 
of  the  world,  by  "  sitting "  for  murderers,  or  ruffians 

Occasionally  one  saw,  jostled  about  unresistingly 
by  the  crowd,  and  as  if  the  crowd  ignored  its  exist- 
ence, the  live  carcass  of  some  wretched,  dazed,  woe- 
begone man,  clad  in  the  worn-out  greasy  habili- 
ments of  quondam  gentility  ;  the  glassy  unintelligent 
eye  looking  as  if  no  focus  could  be  found  for  it,  but 
as  if  it  saw  a  dim  misty  vision  of  everything  all  at 
once  ;  the  only  meaning  in  the  face  being  about  the 
lips,  where  still  lingered  the  smack  of  grateful  enjoy- 
ment of  the  last  mouthful  of  whisky,  blended  with  a 
longing  humble  sigh  for  the  speedy  recurrence  of  any 
opportunity  of  again  experiencing  such  an  awakening 
bliss,  and  forcibly  expressing  an  unquenchable  thirst 
for  strong  drinks,  together  with  the  total  absence  of 
all  power  to  do  anything  towards  relieving  it,  while 
the  whole  appearance  of  the  man  spoke  of  bitter 
disappointment  and  reverses,  without  the  force  to 
bear  up  under  them.  He  was  the  picture  of  sottish 
despair,  and  the  name  of  his  duplicates  was  legion. 

There  was  in  the  crowd  a  large  proportion  of  sleek 

60  MONTE. 


well-shaven  men,  in  stove-pipe  hats  and  broadcloth; 
but,  however  nearly  a  man  might  approach  in  appear- 
ance to  the  conventional  idea  of  a  gentleman,  it  is 
not  to  be  supposed,  on  that  account,  that  he  either 
was,  or  got  the  credit  of  being,  a  bit  better  than  his 
neighbours.  The  man  standing  next  him,  in  the 
guise  of  a  labouring  man,  was  perhaps  his  superior  in 
wealth,  character,  and  education.  Appearances,  at 
least  as  far  as  dress  was  concerned,  went  for  nothing 
at  all.  A  man  was  judged  by  the  amount  of  money 
in  his  purse,  and  frequently  the  man  to  be  most 
courted  for  his  dollars  was  the  most  to  be  despised  for 
his  looks. 

One  element  of  mixed  crowds  of  people,  in  the 
States  and  in  this  country,  was  very  poorly  repre- 
sented. There  were  scarcely  any  of  the  lower  order 
of  Irish ;  the  cost  of  emigration  to  California  was 
at  that  time  too  great  for  the  majority  of  that  class, 
although  now  the  Irish  population  of  San  Francisco 
is  nearly  equal  in  proportion  to  that  in  the  large 
cities  of  the  Union. 

The  Spanish  game  of  monte,  which  was  introduced 
into  California  by  the  crowds  of  Mexicans  who  came 
there,  was  at  this  time  the  most  popular  game,  and 
was  dealt  almost  exclusively  by  Mexicans.  It  is 
played  on  a  table  about  six  feet  by  four,  on  each  side 
of  which  sits  a  dealer,  and  between  them  is  the  bank 
of  gold  and  silver  coin,  to  the  amount  of  five  or  ten 
thousand  dollars,  piled  up  in  rows  covering  a  space  of 
a  couple  of  square  feet.  The  game  is  played  with 

FARO.  61 

Spanish  cards,  which  are  differently  figured  from  the 
usual  playing-cards,  and  have  only  forty-eight  in  the 
pack,  the  ten  being  wanting.  At  either  end  of  the 
table  two  compartments  are  marked  on  the  cloth, 
on  each  of  which  the  dealer  lays  out  a  card.  Bets 
are  then  made  by  placing  one's  stake  on  the  card 
betted  on  ;  and  are  decided  according  to  which  of 
those  laid  out  first  makes  its  appearance,  as  the 
dealer  draws  card  after  card  from  the  top  of  the 
pack.  It  is  a  game  at  which  the  dealer  has  such 
advantages,  and  which,  at  the  same  time,  gives  him 
such  facilities  for  cheating,  that  any  one  who  con- 
tinues to  bet  at  it  is  sure  to  be  fleeced. 

Faro,  which  was  the  more  favourite  game  for 
heavy  betting,  and  was  dealt  chiefly  by  Americans, 
is  played  on  a  table  the  same  size  as  a  monte  table. 
Laid  out  upon  it  are  all  the  thirteen  cards  of  a  suit, 
on  any  of  which  one  makes  his  bets,  to  be  decided 
according  as  the  same  card  appears  first  or  second  as 
the  dealer  draws  them  two  by  two  off  the  top  of  the 

Faro  was  generally  played  by  systematic  gamblers, 
who  knew,  or  thought  they  knew,  what  they  were 
about ;  while  monte,  from  its  being  apparently  more 
simple,  was  patronised  by  novices.  There  were  also 
roulette  and  rouge-et-noir  tables,  and  an  infinite 
variety  of  small  games  played  with  dice,  and  classed 
under  the  general  appellation  of  "  chuck-a-luck." 

I  should  mention  that  in  California  the  word 
gambler  is  not  used  in  exactly  the  same  abstract  sense 


as  with  us.  An  individual  might  spend  all  his  time, 
and  gain  his  living,  in  betting  at  public  gaming- 
tables, but  that  would  not  entitle  him  to  the  distinc- 
tive appellation  of  a  gambler  ;  it  would  only  be  said 
of  him,  that  he  gambled. 

The  gamblers  were  only  the  professionals,  the  men 
who  laid  out  their  banks  in  public  rooms,  and  in- 
vited all  and  sundry  to  bet  against  them.  They  were 
a  distinct  and  numerous  class  of  the  community,  who 
followed  their  profession  for  the  accommodation  of 
the  public  ;  and  any  one  who  did  business  with  them 
was  no  more  a  "  gambler"  than  a  man  who  bought 
a  pound  of  tea  was  a  grocer. 

At  this  time  the  gamblers  were,  as  a  general 
thing,  the  best-dressed  men  in  San  Francisco.  Many 
of  them  were  very  gentlemanly  in  appearance,  but 
there  was  a  peculiar  air  about  them  which  denoted 
their  profession — so  much  so,  that  one  might  fre- 
quently hear  the  remark,  that  such  a  person  "  looked 
like  a  gambler."  They  had  a  haggard,  careworn  look 
(though  that  was  nothing  uncommon  in  California), 
and  as  they  sat  dealing  at  their  tables,  no  fluctuation 
of  fortune  caused  the  slightest  change  in  the  expres- 
sion of  their  face,  which  was  that  of  being  intently 
occupied  with  their  game,  but  at  the  same  time  totally 
indifferent  as  to  the  result.  Even  among  the  betters 
the  same  thing  was  remarkable,  though  in  a  less  de- 
gree, for  the  struggle  to  appear  unconcerned  when 
a  man  lost  his  all,  was  often  too  plainly  evident. 

The  Mexicans  showed  the  most  admirable  impas- 


sibility.  I  have  seen  one  betting  so  high  at  a  monte 
table  that  a  crowd  collected  round  to  watch  the  result. 
After  winning  a  large  sum  of  money,  he  finally  staked 
it  all  on  one  card,  and  lost,  when  he  exhibited  less 
concern  than  many  of  the  bystanders,  for  he  merely 
condescended  to  give  a  slight  shrug  of  his  shoulders 
as  he  lighted  his  cigarita  and  strolled  slowly  off. 

In  the  forenoon,  when  gambling  was  slack,  the 
gamblers  would  get  up  from  their  tables,  and,  leaving 
exposed  upon  them,  at  the  mercy  of  the  heterogene- 
ous crowd  circulating  through  the  room,  piles  of  gold 
and  silver,  they  would  walk  away,  seemingly  as  little 
anxious  for  the  safety  of  their  money  as  if  it  were 
under  lock  and  key  in  an  iron  chest.  It  was  strange 
to  see  so  much  apparent  confidence  in  the  honesty  of 
human  nature,  and,  in  a  city  where  robberies  and  vio- 
lence were  so  rife,  that,  when  out  at  night  in  unfre- 
quented quarters,  one  walked  pistol  in  hand  in  the  mid- 
dle of  the  street,  to  see  money  exposed  in  such  a  way  as 
would  be  thought  madness  in  any  other  part  of  the 
world.  But  here  the  summary  justice  likely  to  be 
dispensed  by  the  crowd,  was  sufficient  to  insure  a 
due  observance  of  the  law  of  meum  and  tuum. 

These  saloons  were  not  by  any  means  frequented 
exclusively  by  persons  who  went  there  for  the  pur- 
pose of  gambling.  Few  men  had  much  inducement 
to  pass  their  evenings  in  their  miserable  homes,  and 
the  gambling-rooms  were  a  favourite  public  resort,  the 
music  alone  offering  sufficient  attraction  to  many  who 
never  thought  of  staking  a  dollar  at  any  of  the  tables. 

64  "  DRINKS." 

Another  very  attractive  feature  is  the  bar,  a  long 
polished  mahogany  or  marble  counter,  at  which 
two  or  three  smart  young  men  officiated,  having  be- 
hind them  long  rows  of  ornamental  bottles,  contain- 
ing all  the  numerous  ingredients  necessary  for  con- 
cocting the  hundred  and  one  different  "  drinks" 
which  were  called  for.  This  was  also  the  most  elabo- 
rately-decorated part  of  the  room,  the  wall  being 
completely  covered  with  mirrors  and  gilding,  and 
further  ornamented  with  china  vases,  bouquets  of 
flowers,  and  gold  clocks. 

Hither  small  parties  of  men  are  continually  repair- 
ing to  "  take  a  drink."  Perhaps  they  each  choose  a 
different  kind  of  punch,  or  sling,  or  cocktail,  requir- 
ing various  combinations,  in  different  proportions,  of 
whisky,  brandy,  or  gin,  with  sugar,  bitters,  pepper- 
mint, absinthe,  curacoa,  lemon-peel,  mint,  and  what 
not ;  but  the  bar-keeper  mixes  them  all  as  if  by 
magic,  when  each  man,  taking  his  glass,  and  tipping 
those  of  all  the  rest  as  he  mutters  some  sentiment, 
swallows  the  compound  and  wipes  his  moustache. 
The  party  then  move  off  to  make  way  for  others,  the 
whole  operation  from  beginning  to  end  not  occupy- 
ing more  than  a  couple  of  minutes. 



A  MOST  useful  quality  for  a  California  emigrant  was 
one  which  the  Americans  possess  in  a  pre-eminent 
degree  —  a  natural  versatility  of  disposition,  and 
adaptability  to  every  description  of  pursuit  or  occu- 

The  numbers  of  the  different  classes  forming  the 
community  were  not  in  the  proportion  requisite 
to  preserve  its  equilibrium.  Transplanting  oneself 
to  California  from  any  part  of  the  world,  involved 
an  outlay  beyond  the  means  of  the  bulk  of  the 
labouring  classes ;  and  to  those  who  did  come  to 
the  country,  the  mines  were  of  course  the  great 
point  of  attraction  ;  so  that  in  San  Francisco  the 



numbers  of  the  labouring  and  of  the  working 
classes  generally,  were  not  nearly  equal  to  the 
demand.  The  consequence  was  that  labourers'  and 
mechanics7  wages  were  ridiculously  high  ;  and,  as  a 
general  thing,  the  lower  the  description  of  labour,  or  of 
service,  required,  the  more  extravagant  in  proportion 
were  the  wages  paid.  Sailors'  wages  were  two  and 
three  hundred  dollars  per  month,  and  there  were 
hundreds  of  ships  lying  idle  in  the  bay  for  want  of 
crews  to  man  them  even  at  these  rates.  Every  ship, 
on  her  arrival,  was  immediately  deserted  by  all 
hands  ;  for,  of  all  people,  sailors  were  the  most  unre- 
strainable  in  their  determination  to  go  to  the  dig- 
gings ;  and  it  was  there  a  common  saying,  of  the  truth 
of  which  I  saw  myself  many  examples,  that  sailors, 
niggers,  and  Dutchmen,  were  the  luckiest  men  in  the 
mines  :  a  very  drunken  old  salt  was  always  par- 
ticularly lucky. 

There  was  a  great  overplus  of  young  men  of  edu- 
cation, who  had  never  dreamed  of  manual  labour,  and 
who  found  that  their  services  in  their  wonted  capaci- 
ties were  not  required  in  such  a  rough-and-ready, 
every-man-for-himself  sort  of  place.  Hard  work, 
however,  was  generally  better  paid  than  head  work, 
and  men  employed  themselves  in  any  way,  quite  re- 
gardless of  preconceived  ideas  of  their  own  dignity. 
It  was  one  intense  scramble  for  dollars — the  man 
who  got  most  was  the  best  man — how  he  got  them 
had  nothing  to  do  with  it.  No  occupation  was  con- 
sidered at  all  derogatory,  and,  in  fact,  every  one  was 


too  much  occupied  with  his  own  affairs  to  trouble 
himself  in  the  smallest  degree  about  his  neighbour. 

A  man's  actions  and  conduct  were  totally  unre- 
strained by  the  ordinary  conventionalities  of  civilised 
life,  and,  so  long  as  he  did  not  interfere  with  the  rights 
of  others,  he  could  follow  his  own  course,  for  good  or 
for  evil,  with  the  utmost  freedom. 

Among  so  many  temptations  to  err,  thrust  pro- 
minently in  one's  way,  without  any  social  restraint  to 
counteract  them,  it  was  not  surprising  that  many 
men  were  too  weak  for  such  a  trial,  and,  to  use  an 
expressive,  though  not  very  elegant  phrase,  went  to 
the  devil.  The  community  was  composed  of  isolated 
individuals,  each  quite  regardless  of  the  good  opinion 
of  his  neighbours  ;  and,  the  outside  pressure  of  society 
being  removed,  men  assumed  their  natural  shape, 
and  showed  what  they  really  were,  following  their 
unchecked  impulses  and  inclinations.  The  human 
nature  of  ordinary  life  appeared  in  a  bald  and  naked 
state,  and  the  natural  bad  passions  of  men,  with  all 
the  vices  and  depravities  of  civilisation,  were  in- 
dulged with  the  same  freedom  which  characterises 
the  life  of  a  wild  savage. 

There  were,  however,  bright  examples  of  the  con- 
trary. If  there  was  a  lavish  expenditure  in  minis- 
tering to  vice,  there  was  also  munificence  in  the 
bestowing  of  charity.  Though  there  were  gorgeous 
temples  for  the  worship  of  mammon,  there  was  a 
sufficiency  of  schools  and  churches  for  every  de- 
nomination ;  while,  under  the  influence  of  the  con- 


stantly-increasing  numbers  of  virtuous  women,  the 
standard  of  morals  was  steadily  improving,  and 
society,  as  it  assumed  a  shape  and  a  form,  began  to 
assert  its  claims  to  respect. 

Although  employment,  of  one  sort  or  another,  and 
good  pay,  were  to  be  had  by  all  who  were  able  and 
willing  to  work,  there  was  nevertheless  a  vast  amount 
of  misery  and  destitution.  Many  men  had  come  to 
the  country  with  their  expectations  raised  to  an 
unwarrantable  pitch,  imagining  that  the  mere  fact  of 
emigration  to  California  would  insure  them  a  rapid 
fortune ;  but  when  they  came  to  experience  the 
severe  competition  in  every  branch  of  trade,  their 
hopes  were  gradually  destroyed  by  the  difficulties  of 
the  reality. 

Every  kind  of  business,  custom,  and  employment, 
was  solicited  with  an  importunity  little  known  in  old 
countries,  where  the  course  of  all  such  things  is  in 
so  well-worn  a  channel,  that  it  is  not  easily  diverted. 
But  here  the  field  was  open,  and  every  one  was 
striving  for  what  seemed  to  be  within  the  reach  of 
all — a  foremost  rank  in  his  own  sphere.  To  keep 
one's  place  in  the  crowd  required  an  unremitted 
exercise  of  the  same  vigour  and  energy  which  were 
necessary  to  obtain  it ;  and  many  a  man,  though 
possessed  of  qualities  which  would  have  enabled  him 
to  distinguish  himself  in  the  quiet  routine  life  of  old 
countries,  was  crowded  out  of  his  place  by  the 
multitude  of  competitors,  whose  deficiency  of  merit 
in  other  respects  was  more  than  counterbalanced  by 


an  excess  of  unscrupulous  boldness  and  physical 
energy.  A  polished  education  was  of  little  service, 
unless  accompanied  by  an  unwonted  amount  of  de- 
mocratic feeling;  for  the  extreme  sensitiveness  which 
it  is  otherwise  apt  to  produce,  unfitted  a  man  for 
taking  part  in  such  a  hand-to-hand  struggle  with  his 

Drinking  was  the  great  consolation  for  those  who 
had  not  moral  strength  to  bear  up  under  their  dis- 
appointments. Some  men  gradually  obscured  their 
intellects  by  increased  habits  of  drinking,  and,  equally 
gradually,  reached  the  lowest  stage  of  misery  and 
want ;  while  others  went  at  it  with  more  force,  and 
drank  themselves  into  delirium  tremens  before  they 
knew  where  they  were.  This  is  a  very  common 
disease  in  California :  there  is  something  in  the 
climate  which  superinduces  it  with  less  provocation 
than  in  other  countries. 

But,  though  drunkenness  was  common  enough,  the 
number  of  drunken  men  one  saw  was  small,  con- 
sidering the  enormous  consumption  of  liquor. 

The  American  style  of  drinking  is  so  different  from 
that  in  fashion  in  the  Old  World,  and  forms  such  an 
important  part  of  social  intercourse,  that  it  certainly 
deserves  to  be  considered  one  of  the  peculiar  institu- 
tions of  the  country. 

In  England  a  man  reserves  his  drinking  capaci- 
ties to  enhance  the  enjoyment  of  the  great  event  of 
the  day,  and  to  increase  the  comfortable  feeling  of 
repletion  which  he  experiences  while  ruminating  over 


it.  Dinner  divides  his  day  into  two  separate  exist- 
ences, and  drinking  in  the  forenoon  suggests  the  idea 
of  a  man  slinking  off  into  out-of-the-way,  mysterious 
places,  and  boozily  muddling  himself  in  private  with 
quart  pots  of  ale  or  numerous  glasses  of  brandy-and- 

With  Americans,  however,  the  case  is  very  different. 
Dinner  with  them  forms  no  such  comfortable  epoch 
in  their  daily  life  :  it  brings  not  even  the  hour  of  rest 
which  is  allowed  to  the  labouring  man — but  it  is  one 
of  the  necessities  of  human  existence,  and,  as  it  pre- 
cludes all  other  occupations  for  the  time  being,  it  is 
despatched  as  quickly  as  possible.  They  do  not 
drink  during  dinner,  nor  immediately  afterwards. 
The  most  common  excuse  for  declining  the  invitation 
of  a  friend  to  "  take  a  drink/'  is  "Thank  you,  Fve  just 
dined."  They  make  the  voyage  through  life  under  a 
full  head  of  steam  all  the  time  ;  they  live  more  in  a 
given  time  than  other  people,  and  naturally  have 
recourse  to  constant  stimulants  to  make  up  for  the 
want  of  intervals  of  abandon  and  repose.  The 
necessary  amount  of  food  they  eat  at  stated  hours, 
but  their  allowance  of  stimulants  is  divided  into  a 
number  of  small  doses,  to  be  taken  at  short  intervals 
throughout  the  day. 

So  it  is  that  a  style  of  drinking,  which  would  ruin 
a  man's  character  in  this  or  any  other  country  where 
eating  and  drinking  go  together,  is  in  the  States  car- 
ried on  publicly  and  openly.  The  bars  are  the  most 
favourite  resort,  being  situated  in  the  most  frequented 


and  conspicuous  places  ;  and  here,  at  all  hours  of 
the  day,  men  are  gulping  down  fiery  mouthfuls  of 
brandy  or  gin,  rendered  still  more  pungent  by  the 
addition  of  other  ingredients,  and  softened  down  with 
a  little  sugar  and  water. 

No  one  ever  thinks  of  drinking  at  a  bar  alone  :  he 
looks  round  for  some  friend  whom  he  can  ask  to  join 
him  ;  it  is  not  etiquette  to  refuse,  and  it  is  expected 
that  the  civility  will  be  returned :  so  that  the  system 
gives  the  idea  of  being  a  mere  interchange  of  compli- 
ments ;  and  many  men,  in  submitting  to  it,  are 
actuated  chiefly  by  a  desire  to  show  a  due  amount 
of  courtesy  to  their  friends. 

In  San  Francisco,  where  the  ordinary  rate  of  exist- 
ence was  even  faster  than  in  the  Atlantic  States,  men 
required  an  extra  amount  of  stimulant  to  keep  it  up, 
and  this  fashion  of  drinking  was  carried  to  excess. 
The  saloons  were  crowded  from  early  morning  till 
late  at  night ;  and  in  each,  two  or  three  bar-keepers 
were  kept  unceasingly  at  work,  mixing  drinks  for 
expectant  groups  of  customers.  They  had  no  time 
even  to  sell  cigars,  which  were  most  frequently  dis- 
pensed at  a  miniature  tobacconist's  shop  in  another 
part  of  the  saloon. 

Among  the  proprietors  of  saloons,  or  bars,  the 
competition  was  so  great,  that,  from  having,  as  is 
usual,  merely  a  plate  of  crackers  and  cheese  on  the 
counter,  they  got  the  length  of  laying  out,  for  several 
hours  in  the  forenoon,  and  again  in  the  evening,  a 
table,  covered  with  a  most  sumptuous  lunch  of  soups, 

72  HOW   DRINKS    ARE    SERVED    OUT. 

cold  meats,  fish,  and  so  on, — with  two  or  three 
waiters  to  attend  to  it.  This  was  all  free — there  was 
nothing  to  pay  for  it  :  it  was  only  expected  that  no 
one  would  partake  of  the  good  things  without  taking 
a  "drink"  afterwards. 

This  sort  of  thing  is  common  enough  in  New 
Orleans ;  but  in  a  place  like  San  Francisco,  where  the 
plainest  dinner  any  man  could  eat  cost  a  dollar,  it 
did  seem  strange  that  such  goodly  fare  should  be  pro- 
vided gratuitously  for  all  and  sundry.  It  showed, 
however,  what  immense  profits  were  made  at  the  bars 
to  allow  of  such  an  outlay,  and  gave  an  idea  of  the 
rivalry  which  existed  even  in  that  line  of  business. 

Another  part  of  the  economy  of  the  American  bar 
is  an  instance  of  the  confidence  placed  in  the  discre- 
tion of  the  public — namely,  the  mode  of  dispensing 
liquors.  When  you  ask  for  brandy,  the  bar-keeper 
hands  you  a  tumbler  and  a  decanter  of  brandy,  and 
you  help  yourself  to  as  much  as  you  please  :  the 
price  is  all  the  same  ;  it  does  not  matter  what  or  how 
big  a  dose  one  takes  :  and  in  the  case  of  cocktails,  and 
such  drinks  as  the  bar-keeper  mixes,  you  tell  him  to 
make  it  as  light,  or  stiff,  as  you  wish.  This  is  the 
custom  even  at  the  very  lowest  class  of  grogshops. 
They  have  a  story  in  the  States  connected  with  this, 
so  awfully  old  that  I  am  almost  ashamed  to  repeat  it. 
I  have  heard  it  told  a  thousand  times,  and  always 
located  in  the  bar  of  the  Astor  House  in  New  York  ; 
so  we  may  suppose  it  to  have  happened  there. 

A  man  came  up  to  the  bar,  and  asking  for  brandy, 
was  handed  a  decanter  of  brandy  accordingly.  Fill- 


ing  a  tumbler  nearly  full,  he  drank  it  off,  and,  laying 
his  shilling  on  the  counter,  was  walking  away,  when 
the  bar-keeper  called  after  him,  "  Saay,  stranger ! 
you've  forgot  your  change — there's  sixpence."  "  No," 
he  said,  "  I  only  gave  you  a  shilling  ;  is  not  it  a  shil- 
ling a  drink  V3  "  Yes,"  said  the  bar-keeper  ;  "  selling 
it  retail  we  charge  a  shilling,  but  a  fellow  like  you 
taking  it  wholesale  we  only  charge  sixpence." 

The  American  bar-keeper  is  quite  an  institution  of 
himself.  He  is  a  superior  class  of  man  to  those  en- 
gaged in  a  similar  capacity  in  this  country,  and  has 
no  counterpart  here.  In  fact,  bar-keeping  is  a  profes- 
sion, in  which  individuals  rise  to  eminence,  and  be- 
come celebrated  for  their  cocktails,  and  for  their  ad- 
dress in  serving  customers.  The  rapidity  and  dex- 
terity with  which  they  mix  half-a-dozen  different 
kinds  of  drinks  all  at  once  is  perfectly  wonderful ; 
one  sees  nothing  but  a  confusion  of  bottles  and 
tumblers  and  cascades  of  fluids  as  he  pours  them 
from  glass  to  glass  at  arm's  length  for  the  better 
amalgamation  of  the  ingredients  ;  and  in  the  time  it 
would  take  an  ordinary  man  to  pour  out  a  glass  of 
wine,  the  mixtures  are  ready,  each  prepared  as  accu- 
rately as  an  apothecary  makes  up  a  prescription. 

The  bar-keepers  in  San  Francisco  exercised  their 
ingenuity  in  devising  new  drinks  to  suit  the  popular 
taste.  The  most  simple  and  the  best  that  I  know  of 
is  a  champagne  cocktail,  which  is  very  easily  made 
by  putting  a  few  drops  of  bitters  in  a  tumbler  and 
filling  it  up  with  champagne. 

The  immigration  of  Frenchmen  had  been  so  large 


that  some  parts  of  the  city  were  completely  French  in 
appearance  ;  the  sEops,  restaurants,  and  estaminets, 
being  painted  according  to  French  taste,  and  exhibit- 
ing ^French  signs,  the  very  letters  of  which  had  a 
French  look  about  them.  The  names  of  some  of  the 
restaurants  were  rather  ambitious — as  the  Trois 
Freres,  the  Cafe  de  Paris,  and  suchlike  ;  but  these 
were  second  and  third-rate  places;  those  which  courted 
the  patronage  of  the  upper  classes  of  all  nations, 
assumed  names  more  calculated  to  tickle  the  Ame- 
rican ear, — such  as  the  Jackson  House  and  the  Lafay- 
ette. They  were  presided  over  by  elegantly  dressed 
dames  du  comptoir,  and  all  the  arrangements  were  in 
Parisian  style. 

The  principal  American  houses  were  equally  good ; 
and  there  was  also  an  abundance  of  places  where  those 
who  delighted  in  corn-bread,  buckwheat  cakes,  pickles, 
grease,  molasses,  apple-sauce,  and  pumpkin  pie,  could 
gratify  their  taste  to  the  fullest  extent. 

There  was  nothing  particularly  English  about  any 
of  the  eating-houses ;  but  there  were  numbers  of 
second-rate  English  drinking-shops,  where  John  Bull 
could  smoke  his  pipe  and  swig  his  ale  coolly  and 
calmly,  without  having  to  gulp  it  down  and  move  off 
to  make  way  for  others,  as  at  the  bars  of  the  Ameri- 
can saloons. 

The  Germans  too  had  their  lager  bier  cellars,  but 
the  noise  and  smoke  which  came  up  from  them  was 
enough  to  deter  any  one  but  a  German  from  ventur- 
ing in. 


There  was  also  a  Mexican  quarter  of  the  town, 
where  there  were  greasy-looking  Mexican  fondas,  and 
crowds  of  lazy  Mexicans  lying  about,  wrapped  up  in 
their  blankets,  smoking  cigaritas. 

In  another  quarter  the  Chinese  most  did  congre- 
gate. Here  the  majority  of  the  houses  were  of 
Chinese  importation,  and  were  stores,  stocked  with 
hams,  tea,  dried  fish,  dried  ducks,  and  other  very 
nasty-looking  Chinese  eatables,  besides  copper-pots 
and  kettles,  fans,  shawls,  chessmen,  and  all  sorts  of 
curiosities.  Suspended  over  the  doors  were  bril- 
liantly-coloured boards,  about  the  size  and  shape  of  a 
head-board  over  a  grave,  covered  with  Chinese  cha- 
racters, and  with  several  yards  of  red  ribbon  stream- 
ing from  them  ;  while  the  streets  were  thronged 
with  long-tailed  Celestials,  chattering  vociferously  as 
they  rushed  about  from  store  to  store,  or  standing  in 
groups  studying  the  Chinese  bills  posted  up  in  the 
shop  windows,  which  may  have  been  play-bills, — for 
there  was  a  Chinese  theatre, — or  perhaps  advertise- 
ments informing  the  public  where  the  best  rat-pies 
were  to  be  had.  A  peculiarly  nasty  smell  pervaded 
this  locality,  and  it  was  generally  believed  that  rats 
were  not  so  numerous  here  as  elsewhere. 

Owing  to  the  great  scarcity  of  washerwomen, 
Chinese  energy  had  ample  room  to  display  itself  in 
the  washing  and  ironing  business.  Throughout  the 
town  might  be  seen  occasionally  over  some  small 
house  a  large  American  sign,  intimating  that  Ching 
Sing,  Wong  Choo,  or  Ki-chong  did  washing  and  iron- 


ing  at  five  dollars  a-dozen.  Inside  these  places  one 
found  two  or  three  Chinamen  ironing  shirts  with 
large  flat-bottomed  copper  pots  full  of  burning  char- 
coal, and,  buried  in  heaps  of  dirty  clothes,  half-a-dozen 
more,  smoking,  and  drinking  tea. 

The  Chinese  tried  to  keep  pace  with  the  rest  of  the 
world.  They  had  their  theatre  and  their  gambling 
rooms,  the  latter  being  small  dirty  places,  badly 
lighted  with  Chinese  paper  lamps.  They  played  a 
peculiar  game.  The  dealer  placed  on  the  table  several 
handfuls  of  small  copper  coins,  with  square  holes 
in  them.  Bets  were  made  by  placing  the  stake  on 
one  of  four  divisions,  marked  in  the  middle  of  the 
table,  and  the  dealer,  drawing  the  coins  away  from 
the  heap,  four  at  a  time,  the  bets  were  decided  accord- 
ing to  whether  one,  two,  three,  or  four  remained  at 
the  last.  They  are  great  gamblers,  and,  when  their 
last  dollar  is  gone,  will  stake  anything  they  possess : 
numbers  of  watches,  rings,  and  such  articles,  were 
always  lying  in  pawn  on  the  table. 

The  Chinese  theatre  was  a  curious  pagoda-looking 
edifice,  built  by  them  expressly  for  theatrical  purposes, 
and  painted,  outside  and  in,  in  an  extraordinary  man- 
ner. The  performances  went  on  day  and  night,  with- 
out intermission,  and  consisted  principally  of  juggling 
and  feats  of  dexterity.  The  most  exciting  part  of  the 
exhibition  was  when  one  man,  and  decidedly  a  man 
of  some  little  nerve,  made  a  spread  eagle  of  himself 
and  stood  up  against  a  door,  while  half-a-dozen  others, 
at  a  distance  of  fifteen  or  twenty  feet,  pelted  the  door 


with  sharp-pointed  bowie-knives,  putting  a  knife  into 
every  square  inch  of  the  door,  but  never  touching  the 
man.  It  was  very  pleasant  to  see,  from  the  unflinch- 
ing way  in  which  the  fellow  stood  it  out,  the  confi- 
dence he  placed  in  the  infallibility  of  his  brethren. 
They  had  also  short  dramatic  performances,  which 
were  quite  unintelligible  to  outside  barbarians.  The 
only  point  of  interest  about  them  was  the  extraordi- 
nary gorgeous  dresses  of  the  actors  ;  but  the  incessant 
noise  they  made  with  gongs  and  kettle-drums  was  so 
discordant  and  deafening,  that  a  few  minutes  at  a 
time  was  as  long  as  any  one  could  stay  in  the  place. 

There  were  several  very  good  American  theatres, 
a  French  theatre,  and  an  Italian  opera,  besides  con- 
certs, masquerades,  a  circus,  and  other  public  amuse- 
ments. The  most  curious  were  certainly  the  masquer- 
ades. They  were  generally  given  in  one  of  the  large 
gambling  saloons,  and  in  the  placards  announcing 
that  they  were  to  come  off,  appeared  conspicuously 
also  the  intimation  of  "  No  weapons  admitted  ;"  "  A 
strong  police  will  be  in  attendance."  The  com- 
pany was  just  such  as  might  be  seen  in  any  gambling- 
room  ;  and,  beyond  the  presence  of  half-a-dozen  masks 
in  female  attire,  there  was  nothing  to  carry  out  the 
idea  of  a  ball  or  a  masquerade  at  all ;  but  it  was  worth 
while  to  go,  if  only  to  watch  the  company  arrive,  and 
to  see  the  practical  enforcement  of  the  weapon  clause 
in  the  announcements.  Several  doorkeepers  were  in 
attendance,  to  whom  each  man  as  he  entered  delivered 
up  his  knife  or  his  pistol,  receiving  a  check  for  it, 


just  as  one  does  for  his  cane  or  umbrella  at  the  door 
of  a  picture-gallery.  Most  men  drew  a  pistol  from 
behind  their  back,  and  very  often  a  knife  along  with 
it ;  some  carried  their  bowie-knife  down  the  back  of 
their  neck,  or  in  their  breast ;  demure,  pious-looking 
men,  in  white  neckcloths,  lifted  up  the  bottom  of 
their  waistcoat,  and  revealed  the  butt  of  a  revolver  ; 
others,  after  having  already  disgorged  a  pistol,  pulled 
up  the  leg  of  their  trousers,  and  abstracted  a  huge 
bowie-knife  from  their  boot ;  and  there  were  men, 
terrible  fellows,  no  doubt,  but  who  were  more  likely 
to  frighten  themselves  than  any  one  else,  who  pro- 
duced a  revolver  from  each  trouser-pocket,  and  a 
bowie-knife  from  their  belt.  If  any  man  declared 
that  he  had  no  weapon,  the  statement  was  so  in- 
credible that  he  had  to  submit  to  be  searched  ;  an 
operation  which  was  performed  by  the  doorkeepers, 
who,  I  observed,  were  occasionally  rewarded  for  their 
diligence  by  the  discovery  of  a  pistol  secreted  in  some 
unusual  part  of  the  dress. 

Some  of  the  shops  were  very  magnificently  got  up, 
and  would  not  have  been  amiss  in  Eegent  Street. 
The  watchmakers'  and  jewellers' shops  especially  were 
very  numerous,  and  made  a  great  display  of  immense 
gold  watches,  enormous  gold  rings  and  chains,  with 
gold-headed  canes,  and  diamond  pins  and  brooches  of 
a  most  formidable  size.  With  numbers  of  men,  who 
found  themselves  possessed  of  an  amount  of  money 
which  they  had  never  before  dreamed  of,  and  which 
they  had  no  idea  what  to  do  with,  the  purchase  of 


gold  watches  and  diamond  pins  was  a  very  favourite 
mode  of  getting  rid  of  their  spare  cash.  Labouring 
men  fastened  their  coarse  dirty  shirts  with  a  cluster 
of  diamonds  the  size  of  a  shilling,  wore  colossal  gold 
rings  on  their  ringers,  and  displayed  a  massive  gold 
chain  and  seals  from  their  watch-pocket ;  while  hardly 
a  man  of  any  consequence  returned  to  the  Atlantic 
States,  without  receiving  from  some  one  of  his  friends 
a  huge  gold-headed  cane,  with  all  his  virtues  and 
good  qualities  engraved  upon  it. 

A  large  business  was  also  done  in  Chinese  shawls, 
and  various  Chinese  curiosities.  It  was  greatly  the 
fashion  for  men,  returning  home,  to  take  with 
them  a  quantity  of  such  articles,  as  presents  for  their 
friends.  In  fact,  a  gorgeous  Chinese  shawl  seemed  to 
be  as  necessary  for  the  returning  Californian,  as  a 
revolver  and  bowie-knife  for  the  California  emigrant. 
There  was  one  large  bazaar  in  particular,  where  was 
exhibited  such  a  stock  of  the  costliest  shawls,  cabinets, 
workboxes,  vases,  and  other  articles  of  Chinese  manu- 
facture, with  clocks,  bronzes,  and  all  sorts  of  drawing- 
room  ornaments,  that  one  would  have  thought  it  an 
establishment  which  could  only  be  supported  in  a 
city  like  London  or  Paris. 

Some  of  the  streets  in  the  upper  part  of  the  city 
presented  a  very  singular  appearance.  The  houses 
had  been  built  before  the  grade  of  the  different  streets 
had  been  fixed  by  the  corporation,  and  there  were 
places  where  the  streets,  having  been  cut  down 
through  the  hills  to  their  proper  level,  were  nothing 

80  THE 

more  than  wide  trenches,  with  a  perpendicular  bank 
on  either  side,  perhaps  forty  or  fifty  feet  high,  and 
on  the  brink  of  these  stood  the  houses,  to  which  access 
was  gained  by  ladders  and  temporary  wooden  stairs, 
the  unfortunate  proprietor  being  obliged  to  go  to  the 
expense  of  grading  his  own  lot,  and  so  bringing  him- 
self down  to  a  level  with  the  rest  of  the  world.  In 
other  places,  where  the  street  crossed  a  deep  hollow, 
it  formed  a  high  embankment,  with  a  row  of  houses 
at  the  foot  of  it,  some  nearly  buried,  and  others 
already  raised  to  the  level  of  the  street,  resting  on  a 
sort  of  scaffolding,  while  the  foundation  was  being 
filled  in  under  them. 

The  soil  was  so  sandy  that  the  hills  were  easily 
cut  down,  and  for  this  purpose  a  contrivance  was 
used  called  a  Steam  Paddy,  which  did  immense  exe- 
cution. It  was  worked  by  steam,  and  was  somewhat 
on  the  principle  of  a  dredging-machine,  but  with  only 
one  large  bucket,  which  cut  down  about  two  tons  of 
earth  at  a  time,  and  emptied  itself  into  a  truck  placed 
alongside.  From  the  spot  where  the  Paddy  was  thus 
walking  into  the  hills  a  railway  was  laid,  extending 
to  the  shore,  and  trains  of  cars  were  continually 
rattling  down  across  the  streets,  taking  the  earth  to 
fill  up  those  parts  of  the  city  which  were  as  yet  under 

Two  or  three  years  later,  in '5  4,  when  an  alteration 
was  made  in  the  grade  of  some  of  the  streets,  large 
brick  and  stone  houses  were  raised  several  feet,  by 
means  of  a  most  ingenious  application  of  hydraulic 


pressure.  Excavations  were  made,  and  under  the 
foundation-walls  of  the  houses  were  inserted  a  num- 
ber of  cylinders  about  two  feet  in  height,  so  that  the 
building  rested  entirely  on  the  heads  of  the  pistons. 
The  cylinders  were  all  connected  by  pipes  with  a 
force-pump,  worked  by  a  couple  of  men,  who  in  this 
way  could  pump  up  a  five-storey  brick  building  three 
or  four  inches  in  the  course  of  the  day.  As  the  house 
grew  up,  props  were  inserted  in  case  of  accidents;  and 
when  it  had  been  raised  as  far  as  the  length  of 
the  pistons  would  allow,  the  whole  apparatus  was 
readjusted,  and  the  operation  was  repeated  till  the 
required  height  was  obtained.  I  went  to  witness  the 
process  when  it  was  being  applied  to  a  large  corner 
brick  building,  five  storeys  high,  with  about  sixty 
feet  frontage  each  way.  The  flagged  side- walk  was 
being  raised  along  with  it ;  but  there  was  no  interrup- 
tion of  the  business  going  on  in  the  premises,  or  any- 
thing whatever  to  indicate  to  the  passer-by  that  the 
ground  was  growing  under  his  feet.  On  going  down 
under  the  house,  one  saw  that  the  building  was  de- 
tached from  the  surrounding  ground,  and  rested  on  a 
number  of  cylinders ;  but  the  only  appearance  of  work 
being  done  was  by  two  men  quietly  working  a  pump 
amid  a  ramification  of  small  iron  pipes.  The  appa- 
ratus had  of  course  to  be  of  an  immense  strength  to 
withstand  the  pressure  to  which  it  was  subjected,  and 
the  utmost  nicety  was  required  in  its  adjustment,  to 
avoid  straining  and  cracking  the  walls  ;  but  numbers 
of  large  buildings  were  raised  most  successfully  in 
this  way  without  receiving  the  slightest  injury. 



The  hackney  carriages  of  San  Francisco  were  in- 
finitely superior  to  those  of  any  other  city  in  the 
world.  One  might  have  supposed  that  any  old  cab 
which  would  hold  together  would  have  been  good 
enough  for  such  a  place ;  but,  on  the  contrary,  the 
cabs — if  cabs  they  could  be  called — were  large  hand- 
some carriages,  lined  with  silk,  and  brightly  painted 
and  polished,  drawn  by  pairs  of  magnificent  horses,  in 
harness,  which,  like  the  carriages,  was  loaded  with 
silver.  They  would  have  passed  anywhere  for  showy 
private  equipages,  had  the  drivers  only  been  in  livery, 
instead  of  being  fashionably  dressed  individuals  in 
kid  gloves.  A  London  cabby  would  have  stared  in 
astonishment  at  an  apparition  of  a  stand  of  such  cabs, 
and  also  at  the  fares  which  were  charged.  One  could 
not  cross  the  street  in  them  under  five  dollars.  The 
scale  of  cab-fares,  however,  was  not  out  of  proportion 
to  the  extravagance  of  other  ordinary  expenses.  The 
drivers  probably  received  two  or  three  hundred  dol- 
lars a-month  (about  £700  a-year),  and  the  horses  alone 
were  worth  from  a  thousand  to  fifteen  hundred  dollars 

None  of  the  private  carriages  came  at  all  near 
the  hacks  in  splendour.  They  were  mostly  of  the 
American  "  buggy "  character,  and  were  drawn  by 
fast-trotting  horses.  The  Americans  have  a  style  and 
taste  in  driving  peculiarly  their  own ;  they  study 
neither  grace  nor  comfort  in  their  attitudes  ;  speed  is 
the  only  source  of  pleasure  ;  and  a  "  three-minute 
horse" — that  is  to  say,  one  which  trots  his  mile  in 


three  minutes — is  the  only  horse  worth  driving;  while 
anything  slower  than  a  "two-forty  (2°  40')  horse"  is 
not  considered  really  fast. 

A  great  many  very  fine  horses  had  been  imported 
from  Sydney,  but  these  were  chiefly  used  in  drays 
and  under  the  saddle.  The  buggy  horses  were  all 
American,  and  had  made  the  journey  across  the 
plains.  The  native  Californian  horses  are  small, 
with  great  powers  of  endurance,  but  are  generally 
not  very  tractable  in  harness. 

On  the  arrival  of  the  fortnightly  steamer  from 
Panama  with  the  mails  from  the  Atlantic  States  and 
from  Europe,  the  distribution  of  letters  at  the  post-office 
occasioned  a  very  singular  scene.  In  the  United 
States  the  system  of  delivering  letters  by  postmen 
is  not  carried  to  the  same  extent  as  in  this  country. 
In  San  Francisco  no  such  thing  existed  as  a  postman ; 
every  one  had  to  call  at  the  post-office  for  his  letters. 
The  mail  usually  consisted  of  several  waggon-loads 
of  letter-bags  ;  and  on  its  being  received,  notice  was 
given  at  the  post-office,  at  what  hour  the  delivery 
would  commence,  a  whole  day  being  frequently  re- 
quired to  sort  the  letters,  which  were  then  delivered 
from  a  row  of  half-a-dozen  windows,  lettered  A  to  E, 
F  to  K,  and  so  on  through  the  alphabet.  Indepen- 
dently of  the  immense  mercantile  correspondence,  of 
course  every  man  in  the  city  was  anxiously  expecting 
letters  from  home  ;  and  for  hours  before  the  appointed 
time  for  opening  the  windows,  a  dense  crowd  of 
people  collected,  almost  blocking  up  the  two  streets 

84  THE   ARRIVAL    OF   THE   MAIL. 

which  gave  access  to  the  post-office,  and  having  the 
appearance  at  a  distance  of  being  a  mob ;  but  on  com- 
ing up  to  it,  one  would  find  that,  though  closely  packed 
together,  the  people  were  all  in  six  strings,  twisted 
up  and  down  in  all  directions,  the  commencement  of 
them  being  the  lucky  individuals  who  had  been  first 
on  the  ground,  and  taken  up  their  position  at  their 
respective  windows,  while  each  new-comer  had  to  fall 
in  behind  those  already  waiting.  Notwithstanding 
the  value  of  time,  and  the  impatience  felt  by  every 
individual,  the  most  perfect  order  prevailed  :  there 
was  no  such  thing  as  a  man  attempting  to  push  him- 
self in  ahead  of  those  already  waiting,  nor  was  there 
the  slightest  respect  of  persons ;  every  new-comer 
quietly  took  his  position,  and  had  to  make  the  best  of 
it,  with  the  prospect  of  waiting  for  hours  before  he 
could  hope  to  reach  the  window.  Smoking  and 
chewing  tobacco  were  great  aids  in  passing  the  time, 
and  many  came  provided  with  books  and  newspapers, 
which  they  could  read  in  perfect  tranquillity,  as  there 
was  no  unnecessary  crowding  or  jostling.  The  prin- 
ciple of  "  first  come  first  served"  was  strictly  adhered 
to,  and  any  attempt  to  infringe  the  established  rule 
would  have  been  promptly  put  down  by  the  omni- 
potent majority. 

A  man's  place  in  the  line  was  his  individual  pro- 
perty, more  or  less  valuable  according  to  his  distance 
from  the  window,  and,  like  any  other  piece  of  pro- 
perty, it  was  bought  and  sold,  and  converted  into  cash. 
Those  who  had  plenty  of  dollars  to  spare,  but  could 


not  afford  much  time,  could  buy  out  some  one  who  had 
already  spent  several  hours  in  keeping  his  place.  Ten  or 
fifteen  dollars  were  frequently  paid  for  a  good  position, 
and  some  men  went  there  early,  and  waited  patiently, 
without  any  expectation  of  getting  letters,  but  for  the 
chance  of  turning  their  acquired  advantage  into  cash. 
The  post-office  clerks  got  through  their  work  briskly 
enough  when  once  they  commenced  the  delivery,  the 
alphabetical  system  of  arrangement  enabling  them  to 
produce  the  letters  immediately  on  the  name  being 
given.     One  was  not  kept  long  in  suspense,  and  many 
a  poor  fellow's  face  lengthened   out  into  a  doleful 
expression  of  disbelief  and  disappointment,  as,  scarcely 
had  he  uttered   his   name,  when  he  was  promptly 
told  there  was  nothing  for  him.     This  was  a  sentence 
from  which  there  was  no  appeal,  however  incredulous 
one  might  be  ;  and  every  man  was  incredulous  ;  for 
during  the  hour  or  two  he  had  been  waiting,  he  had 
become  firmly  convinced  in  his  own  mind  that  there 
must  be  a  letter  for  him  ;  and  it  was  no  satisfaction 
at  all  to  see  the  clerk,  surrounded  as  he  was  by  thou- 
sands of  letters,  take  only  a  packet  of  a  dozen  or  so 
in  which  to  look  for  it :  one  would  like  to  have  had 
the  post-office  searched  all  over,  and  if  without  suc- 
cess, would  still  have  thought  there  was  something 
wrong.     I  was  myself  upon  one  occasion  deeply  im- 
pressed with  this  spirit  of  unbelief  in  the  infallibility 
of  the  post-office  oracle,  and  tried  the  effect  of  another 
application  the  next  day,  when  my  perseverance  was 
crowned  with  success. 


There  was  one  window  devoted  exclusively  to  the 
use  of  foreigners,  among  whom  English  were  not  in- 
cluded ;  and  here  a  polyglot  individual,  who  would 
have  been  a  useful  member  of  society  in  the  Tower  of 
Babel,  answered  the  demands  of  all  European  nations, 
and  held  communication  with  Chinamen,  Sandwich 
Islanders,  and  all  the  stray  specimens  of  humanity 
from  unknown  parts  of  the  earth. 

One  reason  why  men  went  to  little  trouble  or  ex- 
pense in  making  themselves  comfortable  in  their 
homes,  if  homes  they  could  be  called,  was  the  constant 
danger  of  fire. 

The  city  was  a  mass  of  wooden  and  canvass  build- 
ings, the  very  look  of  which  suggested  the  idea  of  a 
conflagration.  A  room  was  a  mere  partitioned-off 
place,  the  walls  of  which  were  sometimes  only  of  can- 
vass, though  generally  of  boards,  loosely  put  together, 
and  covered  with  any  sort  of  material  which  happened 
to  be  most  convenient — cotton  cloth,  printed  calico, 
or  drugget,  frequently  papered,  as  if  to  render  it  more 
inflammable.  Floors  and  walls  were  by  no  means  so 
exclusive  as  one  is  accustomed  to  think  them  ;  they 
were  not  transparent  certainly,  but  otherwise  they 
insured  little  privacy  :  a  general  conversation  could 
be  very  easily  carried  on  by  all  the  dwellers  in  a 
house,  while,  at  the  same  time,  each  of  them  was  en- 
joying the  seclusion,  such  as  it  was,  of  his  own  apart- 
ment. A  young  lady,  who  was  boarding  at  one  of 
the  hotels,  very  feelingly  remarked,  that  it  was  a  most 
disagreeable  place  to  live  in,  because,  if  any  gentleman 

ALAEM   OF   FIRE.  87 

was  to  pop  the  question  to  her,  the  report  would  be 
audible  in  every  part  of  the  house,  and  all  the  other 
inmates  would  be  waiting  to  hear  the  answer. 

The  cry  of  fire  is  dreadful  enough  anywhere,  but  to 
any  one  who  lived  in  San  Francisco  in  those  days,  it 
must  ever  be  more  exciting,  and  more  suggestive  of 
disaster  and  destruction  of  property,  than  it  can  be 
to  those  who  have  been  all  their  lives  surrounded  by 
brick  and  stone,  and  insurance  companies. 

In  other  countries,  when  a  fire  occurs,  and  a  large 
amount  of  property  is  destroyed,  the  loss  falls  on  a 
company — a  body  without  a  soul,  having  no  indivi- 
dual identity,  and  for  which  no  one,  save  perhaps  a 
few  of  the  shareholders,  has  the  slightest  sympathy. 
The  loss,  being  sustained  by  an  unknown  quantity,  as 
it  were,  is  not  appreciated ;  but  in  San  Francisco  no 
such  institution  as  insurance  against  fire  as  yet  existed. 
To  insure  a  house  there,  would  have  been  as  great  a 
risk  as  to  insure  a  New  York  steamer  two  or  three 
weeks  overdue.  By  degrees,  brick  buildings  were 
superseding  those  of  wood  and  pasteboard  ;  but  still, 
for  the  whole  city,  destruction  by  fire,  sooner  or  later, 
was  the  dreaded  and  fully-expected  doom.  When 
such  a  combustible  town  once  ignited  in  any  one 
spot,  the  flames,  of  course,  spread  so  rapidly  that 
every  part,  however  distant,  stood  nearly  an  equal 
chance  of  being  consumed.  The  alarm  of  fire  acted 
like  the  touch  of  a  magician's  wand.  The  vitality  of 
the  whole  city  was  in  an  instant  arrested,  and  turned 
from  its  course.  Theatres,  saloons,  and  all  public 


places,  were  emptied  as  quickly  as  if  the  buildings 
themselves  were  on  fire  ;  the  business  of  the  moment, 
whatever  it  was,  was  at  once  abandoned,  and  the 
streets  became  filled  with  people  rushing  frantically 
in  every  direction — not  all  towards  the  fire  by  any 
means  ;  few  thought  it  worth  while  to  ask  even  where 
it  was.  To  know  there  was  fire  somewhere  was  quite 
sufficient,  and  they  made  at  once  for  their  house  or 
their  store,  or  wherever  they  had  any  property  that 
might  be  saved  ;  while,  as  soon  as  the  alarm  was 
given,  the  engines  were  heard  thundering  along  the 
streets,  amid  the  ringing  of  the  fire-bells  and  the 
shouts  of  the  excited  crowd. 

The  fire-companies,  of  which  several  were  already 
organised,  were  on  the  usual  American  system — vo- 
lunteer companies  of  citizens,  who  receive  no  pay,  but 
are  exempt  from  serving  on  juries,  and  from  some 
other  citizens'  duties.  They  have  crack  fire-companies 
just  as  we  have  crack  regiments,  and  of  these  the  fast 
young  men  of  the  upper  classes  are  frequently  the 
most  enthusiastic  members.  Each  company  has  its 
own  officers;  but  they  are  all  under  control  of  a  "  chief 
engineer,"  who  is  appointed  by  the  city,  and  who 
directs  the  general  plan  of  operations  at  a  fire.  There 
is  great  rivalry  among  the  different  companies,  who 
vie  with  each  other  in  making  their  turn-out  as  hand- 
some as  possible.  They  each  have  their  own  uniform, 
but  the  nature  of  their  duties  does  not  admit  of  much 
finery  in  their  dress  ;  red  shirts  and  helmets  are  the 
principal  features  in  it.  Their  engines,  however,  are 


got  up  in  very  magnificent  style,  being  most  elabo- 
rately painted,  all  the  iron- work  shining  like  polished 
steel,  and  heavily  mounted  with  brass  or  silver.  They 
are  never  drawn  by  horses,  but  by  the  firemen  them- 
selves. A  long  double  coil  of  rope  is  attached  to  the 
engine,  and  is  paid  out  as  the  crowd  increases,  till  the 
engine  appears  to  be  tearing  and  bumping  along  in 
pursuit  of  a  long  narrow  mob  of  men,  who  run  as  if 
the  very  devil  himself  was  after  them. 

Their  esprit  de  corps  is  very  strong,  and  connected 
with  the  different  engine-houses  are  reading-rooms, 
saloons,  and  so  on,  for  the  use  of  the  members  of  the 
company,  many  of  these  places  being  in  the  same  style 
of  luxurious  magnificence  as  the  most  fashionable 
hotels.  On  holidays,  and  on  every  possible  occasion 
which  offers  an  excuse  for  so  doing,  the  whole  fire 
brigade  parade  the  streets  in  full  dress,  each  company 
dragging  their  engine  after  them,  decked  out  in  flags 
and  flowers,  which  are  presented  to  them  by  their 
lady- admirers,  in  return  for  the  balls  given  by  the 
firemen  for  their  entertainment.  They  also  have  field- 
days,  when  they  all  turn  out,  and  in  some  open  part 
of  the  city  have  a  trial  of  strength,  seeing  which  can 
throw  a  stream  of  water  to  the  greatest  height,  or 
which  can  flood  the  other,  by  pumping  water  into  each 
other's  engines. 

As  firemen  they  are  most  prompt  and  efficient,  per- 
forming their  perilous  duties  with  the  greatest  zeal 
and  intrepidity — as  might,  indeed,  be  expected  of  men 
who  undertake  such  a  service  for  no  hope  of  reward, 


but  for  their  own  love  of  the  danger  and  excitement 
attending  upon  it,  actuated,  at  the  same  time,  by  a 
chivalrous  desire  to  save  either  life  or  property,  in 
trying  to  accomplish  which  they  gallantly  risk,  and 
frequently  lose,  their  own  lives.  This  feeling  is  kept 
alive  by  the  readiness  with  which  the  public  pay 
honour  to  any  individual  who  conspicuously  distin- 
guishes himself — generally  by  presenting  him  with  a 
gold  or  silver  speaking-trumpet  (that  article  being  in 
the  States  as  much  the  badge  of  office  of  a  captain  of 
a  fire-company  as  with  us  of  a  captain  of  a  man-of- 
war),  while  any  fireman  who  is  killed  in  discharge  of 
his  duties  is  buried  with  all  pomp  and  ceremony  by 
the  whole  fire-brigade. 

Two  miles  above  San  Francisco,  on  the  shore  of 
the  bay,  is  the  Mission  Dolores,  one  of  those  which 
were  established  in  different  parts  of  the  country  by 
the  Spaniards.  It  was  a  very  small  village  of  a  few 
adobe  houses  and  a  church,  adjoining  which  stood  a 
large  building,  the  abode  of  the  priests.  The  land 
in  the  neighbourhood  is  flat  and  fertile,  and  was 
being  rapidly  converted  into  market -gardens  ;  but 
the  village  itself  was  as  yet  but  little  changed.  It 
had  a  look  of  antiquity  and  completeness,  as  if  it  had 
been  finished  long  ago,  and  as  if  nothing  more  was 
ever  likely  to  be  done  to  it.  As  is  the  case  with  all 
Spanish  American  towns,  the  very  style  of  the  archi- 
ture  communicated  an  oppressive  feeling  of  stillness, 
and  its  gloomy  solitude  was  only  relieved  by  a 


few  listless  unoccupied-looking  Mexicans  and  native 

The  contrast  to  San  Francisco  was  so  great,  that 
on  coming  out  here  one  could  almost  think  that  the 
noisy  city  he  had  left  but  half  an  hour  before  had 
existence  only  in  his  imagination  ;  for  San  Francisco 
presented  a  picture  of  universal  human  nature  boil- 
ing over,  while  here  was  nothing  but  human  stag- 
nation— a  more  violent  extreme  than  would  have  been 
the  wilderness  as  yet  untrodden  by  man.  Being 
but  a  slightly  reduced  counterpart  of  what  San 
Francisco  was  a  year  or  two  before,  it  offered  a  good 
point  of  view  from  which  to  contemplate  the  mira- 
culous growth  of  that  city,  still  not  only  increasing 
in  extent,  but  improving  in  beauty  and  in  excellence 
in  all  its  parts,  and  progressing  so  rapidly  that, 
almost  from  day  to  day,  one  could  mark  its  steady 
advancement  in  everything  which  denotes  the  pre- 
sence of  a  wealthy  and  prosperous  community. 

The  "  Mission/'  however,  was  not  suffered  to  remain 
long  in  a  state  of  torpor.  A  plank  road  was  built 
to  it  from  San  Francisco.  Numbers  of  villas  sprang 
up  around  it, — and  good  hotels,  a  race-course,  and 
other  attractions  soon  made  it  the  favourite  resort  for 
all  who  sought  an  hour's  relief  from  the  excitement 
of  the  city. 

At  the  very  head  of  the  bay,  some  sixty  miles 
from  San  Francisco,  is  the  town  of  San  Jose,  situated 
in  an  extensive  and  most  fertile  valley,  which  was 

92  SAN   JOSE. 

all  being  brought  under  cultivation,  and  where  some 
farmers  had  already  made  large  fortunes  by  their 
onions  and  potatoes,  for  the  growth  of  which  the  soil 
is  peculiarly  adapted.  San  Jose  was  the  head- 
quarters of  the  native  Californians,  many  of  whom 
were  wealthy  men,  at  least  in  so  far  as  they  owned 
immense  estates  and  thousands  of  wild  cattle.  They 
did  not  "  hold  their  own,"  however,  with  the  more 
enterprising  people  who  were  now  effecting  such  a 
complete  revolution  in  the  country.  Their  property 
became  a  thousandfold  more  valuable,  and  they  had 
every  chance  to  benefit  by  the  new  order  of  things  ; 
but  men  who  had  passed  their  lives  in  that  sparsely 
populated  and  secluded  part  of  the  world,  directing 
a  few  half- savage  Indians  in  herding  wild  cattle, 
were  not  exactly  calculated  to  foresee,  or  to  specu- 
late upon,  the  effects  of  an  overwhelming  influx  of 
men  so  different  in  all  respects  from  themselves  ; 
and  even  when  occasions  of  enriching  themselves 
were  forced  upon  them,  they  were  ignorant  of  their 
own  advantages,  and  were  inferior  in  smartness  to 
the  men  with  whom  they  had  to  deal.  Still,  al- 
though too  slow  to  keep  up  with  the  pace  at  which 
the  country  was  now  going  ahead,  many  of  them 
were,  nevertheless,  men  of  considerable  sagacity,  and 
appeared  to  no  disadvantage  as  members  of  the 
legislature,  to  which  they  were  returned  from  parts 
of  the  State  remote  from  the  mines,  and  where  as 
yet  there  were  few  American  settlers. 

San  Jose  was  quite  out  of  the  way  of  gold-hunters, 


and  there  was  consequently  about  the  place  a  good 
deal  of  the  California  of  other  days.  It  was  at 
that  time,  however,  the  seat  of  government ;  and, 
consequently,  a  large  number  of  Americans  were 
here  assembled,  and  gave  some  life  to  the  town,  which 
had  also  been  improved  by  the  addition  of  several 
new  streets  of  more  modern-looking  houses  than  the 
old  mud  and  tile  concerns  of  the  native  Californians. 
Small  steamers  plied  to  within  a  mile  or  two  of 
the  town  from  San  Francisco,  and  there  were  also 
four-horse  coaches  which  did  the  sixty  miles  in  about 
five  hours.  The  drive  down  the  valley  of  the  San 
Jose  is  in  some  parts  very  beautiful.  The  country 
is  smooth  and  open — not  so  flat  as  to  appear  mono- 
tonous— and  is  sufficiently  wooded  with  fine  oaks  ; 
but  towards  San  Francisco  it  becomes  more  hilly 
and  bleak.  The  soil  is  sandy  ;  indeed,  excepting  a  few 
spots  here  and  there,  it  is  nothing  but  sand,  and 
there  is  hardly  a  tree  ten  feet  high  within  as  many 
miles  of  the  city. 



I  REMAINED  in  San  Francisco  till  the  worst  of  the 
rainy  season  was  over,  when  I  determined  to  go  and 
try  my  luck  in  the  mines  ;  so,  leaving  my  valuables 
in  charge  of  a  friend  in  San  Francisco,  I  equipped 
myself  in  my  worst  suit  of  old  clothes,  and,  with  my 
blankets  slung  over  my  shoulder,  I  put  myself  on 
board  the  steamer  for  Sacramento. 

As  we  did  not  start  till  five  o'clock  in  the  after- 
noon, we  had  not  an  opportunity  of  seeing  very  much 
of  the  scenery  on  the  river.  As  long  as  daylight 
lasted,  we  were  among  smooth  grassy  hills  and  valleys, 
with  but  little  brushwood,  and  only  here  and  there  a 
few  stunted  trees.  Some  of  the  valleys  are  exceed- 


ingly  fertile,  and  all  those  sufficiently  watered  to 
render  them  available  for  cultivation  had  already 
been  "  taken  up." 

We  soon,  however,  left  the  hilly  country  behind 
us,  and  came  upon  the  vast  plains  which  extend  the 
whole  length  of  California,  bounded  on  one  side  by 
the  range  of  mountains  which  runs  along  the  coast, 
and  on  the  other  side  by  the  mountains  which  con- 
stitute the  mining  districts.  Through  these  plains 
flows  the  Sacramento  river,  receiving  as  tributaries 
all  the  rivers  flowing  down  from  the  mountains  on 
either  side. 

The  steamer — which  was  a  very  fair  specimen  of 
the  usual  style  of  New  York  river  -  boat  —  was 
crowded  with  passengers  and  merchandise.  There 
were  not  berths  for  one-half  of  the  people  on  board ; 
and  so,  in  company  with  many  others,  I  lay  down  and 
slept  very  comfortably  on  the  deck  of  the  saloon  till 
about  three  o'clock  in  the  morning,  when  we  were 
awoke  by  the  noise  of  letting  off  the  steam  on  our 
arrival  at  Sacramento. 

One  of  not  the  least  striking  wonders  of  California 
was  the  number  of  these  magnificent  river  steam- 
boats which,  even  at  that  early  period  of  its  history, 
had  steamed  round  Cape  Horn  from  New  York,  and 
now,  gliding  along  the  California  rivers  at  the  rate 
of  twenty-two  miles  an  hour,  afforded  the  same  rapid 
and  comfortable  means  of  travelling,  and  sometimes 
at  as  cheap  rates,  as  when  they  plied  between  New 
York  and  Albany.  Every  traveller  in  the  United 


States  lias  described  the  river  steamboats ;  suffice 
it  to  say  here,  that  they  lost  none  of  their  character- 
istics in  California  ;  and,  looking  at  these  long,  white, 
narrow,  two -storey  houses,  floating  apparently  on 
nothing,  so  little  of  the  hull  of  the  boat  appears  above 
water,  and  showing  none  of  the  lines  which,  in  a  ship, 
convey  an  idea  of  buoyancy  and  power  of  resistance, 
but,  on  the  contrary,  suggesting  only  the  idea  of  how 
easy  it  would  be  to  smash  them  to  pieces — following 
in  imagination  these  fragile-looking  fabrics  over  the 
seventeen  thousand  miles  of  stormy  ocean  over  which 
they  had  been  brought  in  safety,  one  could  not  help 
feeling  a  degree  of  admiration  and  respect  for  the 
daring  and  skill  of  the  men  by  whom  such  perilous 
undertakings  had  been  accomplished.  In  preparing 
these  steamboats  for  their  long  voyage  to  California, 
the  lower  storey  was  strengthened  with  thick  plank- 
ing, and  on  the  forward  part  of  the  deck  was  built  a 
strong  wedge-shaped  screen,  to  break  the  force  of 
the  waves,  which  might  otherwise  wash  the  whole 
house  overboard.  They  crept  along  the  coast,  having 
to  touch  at  most  of  the  ports  on  the  way  for  fuel ; 
and  passing  through  the  Straits  of  Magellan,  they 
escaped  to  a  certain  extent  the  dangers  of  Cape 
Horn,  although  equal  dangers  might  be  encountered 
on  any  part  of  the  voyage. 

But  besides  the  question  of  nautical  skill  and 
individual  daring,  as  a  commercial  undertaking  the 
sending  such  steamers  round  to  California  was  a  very 
bold  speculation.  Their  value  in  New  York  is  about 


a  hundred  thousand  dollars,  and  to  take  them  round 
to  San  Francisco  costs  about  thirty  thousand  more. 
Insurance  is,  of  course,  out  of  the  question  (I  do  not 
think  99  per  cent  would  insure  them  in  this  country 
from  Dover  to  Calais);  so  the  owners  had  to  play  a 
neck-or-nothing  game.  Their  enterprise  was  in  most 
cases  duly  rewarded.  I  only  know  of  one  instance — 
though  doubtless  others  have  occurred — in  which  such 
vessels  did  not  get  round  in  safety :  it  was  an  old 
Long  Island  Sound  boat ;  she  was  rotten  before  ever 
she  left  New  York,  and  foundered  somewhere  about 
the  Bermudas,  all  hands  on  board  escaping  in  the 

The  profits  of  the  first  few  steamers  which  arrived 
out  were  of  course  enormous ;  but,  after  a  while,  com- 
petition wras  so  keen,  that  for  some  time  cabin  fare 
between  San  Francisco  and  Sacramento  was  only  one 
dollar  ;  a  ridiculously  small  sum  to  pay,  in  any  part 
of  the  world,  for  being  carried  in  such  boats  two 
hundred  miles  in  ten  hours ;  but,  in  California  at 
that  time,  the  wages  of  the  common  deck  hands  on 
board  those  same  boats  were  about  a  hundred  dollars 
a-month ;  and  ten  dollars  were  there,  to  the  generality 
of  men,  a  sum  of  much  less  consequence  than  ten 
shillings  are  here. 

These  low  fares  did  not  last  long,  however;  the 
owners  of  steamers  came  to  an  understanding,  and 
the  average  rate  of  fare  from  San  Francisco  to 
Sacramento  was  from  five  to  eight  dollars.  I  have 

only  alluded  to  the  one-dollar  fares  for  the  purpose 



of  giving  an  idea  of  the  competition  which  existed 
in  such  a  business  as  "  steamboating,"  which  re- 
quires a  large  capital ;  and  from  that  it  may  be 
imagined  what  intense  rivalry  there  was  among 
those  engaged  in  less  important  lines  of  business, 
which  engrossed  their  whole  time  and  labour,  and 
required  the  employment  of  all  the  means  at  their 

Looking  at  the  map  of  California,  it  will  be  seen 
that  the  "  mines "  occupy  a  long  strip  of  mountain- 
ous country,  which  commences  many  miles  to  the 
eastward  of  San  Francisco,  and  stretches  northward 
several  hundred  miles.  The  Sacramento  river  run- 
ning parallel  with  the  mines,  the  San  Joaquin  joining 
it  from  the  southward  and  eastward,  and  the  Feather 
river  continuing  a  northward  course  from  the  Sacra- 
mento— all  of  them  being  navigable — present  the 
natural  means  of  communication  between  San  Fran- 
cisco and  the  "  mines."  Accordingly,  the  city  of 
Sacramento — about  two  hundred  miles  north  of  San 
Francisco  —  sprang  up  as  the  depot  for  all  the 
middle  part  of  the  mines,  with  roads  radiating  from 
it  across  the  plains  to  the  various  settlements  in  the 
mountains.  In  like  manner  the  city  of  Marysville, 
being  at  the  extreme  northern  point  of  navigation 
of  the  Feather  river,  became  the  starting-place  and 
the  depot  for  the  mining  districts  in  the  northern 
section  of  the  State ;  and  Stockton,  named  after 
Commodore  Stockton,  of  the  United  States  navy, 
who  had  command  of  the  Pacific  squadron  during 


the  Mexican  war,  being  situated  at  the  head  of 
navigation  of  the  San  Joaqum,  forms  the  interme- 
diate station  between  San  Francisco  and  all  the 
"  southern  mines. " 

Seeing  the  facilities  that  California  thus  presented 
for  inland  navigation,  it  is  not  surprising  that  the 
Americans,  so  pre-eminent  as  they  are  in  that  branch 
of  commercial  enterprise,  should  so  soon  have  taken 
advantage  of  them.  But  though  the  prospective 
profits  were  great,  still  the  enormous  risk  attending 
the  sending  of  steamboats  round  the  Horn  might 
have  seemed  sufficient  to  deter  most  men  from 
entering  into  such  a  hazardous  speculation.  It  must 
be  remembered  that  many  of  these  river  steamboats 
were  despatched  from  New  York,  on  an  ocean  voyage 
of  seventeen  thousand  miles,  to  a  place  of  which 
one-half  the  world  as  yet  even  doubted  the  existence, 
and  when  people  were  looking  up  their  atlases  to 
see  in  what  part  of  the  world  California  was.  The 
risk  of  taking  a  steamboat  of  this  kind  to  what  was 
then  such  an  out-of-the-way  part  of  the  world,  did 
not  end  with  her  arrival  in  San  Francisco  by  any 
means.  The  slightest  accident  to  her  machinery, 
which  there  was  at  that  time  no  possibility  of 
repairing  in  California,  or  even  the  extreme  fluctua- 
tions in  the  price  of  coal,  might  have  rendered  her  at 
any  moment  so  much  useless  lumber. 

In  ocean  navigation  the  same  adventurous  energy 
was  manifest.  Hardly  had  the  news  of  the  discovery 
of  gold  in  California  been  received  in  New  York, 


when  numbers  of  steamers  were  despatched,  at  an 
expense  equal  to  one-half  their  value,  to  take  their 
place  on  the  Pacific  in  forming  a  line  between  the 
United  States  and  San  Francisco  via  Panama ;  so 
that  almost  from  the  first  commencement  of  the 
existence  of  California  as  a  gold-bearing  country, 
steam-communication  was  established  between  New 
York  and  San  Francisco,  bringing  the  two  places 
within  twenty  to  twenty-five  days  of  each  other. 
It  is  true  the  mail  line  had  the  advantage  of  a  mail 
contract  from  the  United  States  government ;  bat 
other  lines,  without  any  such  fostering  influence,  ran 
them  close  in  competition  for  public  patronage. 

The  Americans  are  often  accused  of  boasting — 
perhaps  deservedly  so  ;  but  there  certainly  are  many 
things  in  the  history  of  California  of  which  they  may 
justly  be  proud,  having  transformed  her,  as  they  did 
so  suddenly,  from  a  wilderness  into  a  country  in 
which  most  of  the  luxuries  of  life  were  procurable ; 
and  a  fair  instance  of  the  bold  and  prompt  spirit  of 
commercial  enterprise  by  which  this  was  accom- 
plished, was  seen  in  the  fact  that,  from  the  earliest 
days  of  her  settlement,  California  had  as  good  means 
of  both  ocean  and  inland  steam-communication  as 
any  of  the  oldest  countries  in  the  world. 

Sacramento  City  is  next  in  size  and  importance  to 
San  Francisco.  Many  large  commercial  houses  had 
there  established  their  headquarters,  and  imported 
direct  from  the  Atlantic  States.  The  river  is  navigable 
so  far  by  vessels  of  six  or  eight  hundred  tons,  and 


in  the  early  days  of  California,  many  ships  cleared 
directly  for  Sacramento  from  the  different  ports  on 
the  Atlantic ;  but  as  the  course  of  trade  by  degrees 
found  its  proper  channel,  San  Francisco  became 
exclusively  the  emporium  for  the  whole  of  California, 
and  even  at  the  time  I  write  of,  sea-going  vessels 
were  rarely  seen  so  far  in  the  interior  of  the  country 
as  Sacramento. 

The  plains  are  but  very  little  above  the  average 
level  of  the  river,  and  a  "leveV  had  been  built  all  along 
the  front  of  the  city  eight  or  ten  feet  high,  to  save  it 
from  inundation  by  the  high  waters  of  the  rainy 
season.  With  the  exception  of  a  few  handsome 
blocks  of  brick  buildings,  the  houses  were  all  of 
wood,  and  had  an  unmistakably  Yankee  appearance, 
being  all  painted  white  turned  up  with  green,  and 
covered  from  top  to  bottom  with  enormous  signs. 

The  streets  are  wide,  perfectly  straight,  and  cross 
each  other  at  right  angles  at  equal  distances,  like 
the  lines  of  latitude  and  longitude  on  a  chart.  The 
street  nomenclature  is  unique — very  democratic,  in- 
asmuch as  it  does  not  immortalise  the  names  of  pro- 
minent individuals — and  admirably  adapted  to  such  a 
rectangular  city.  The  streets  running  parallel  with 
the  river  are  numbered  First,  Second,  Third  Street, 
and  so  on  to  infinity,  and  the  cross  streets  are  desig- 
nated by  the  letters  of  the  alphabet.  J  Street  was 
the  great  central  street,  and  was  nearly  a  mile  long; 
so  the  reader  may  reckon  the  number  of  parallel 
streets  on  each  side  of  it,  and  get  an  idea  of  the 

1 02  STAGING. 

extent  of  the  city.  This  system  of  lettering  and 
numbering  the  streets  was  very  convenient,  as,  the 
latitude  and  longitude  of  a  house  being  given,  it 
could  be  found  at  once.  A  stranger  could  navigate 
all  over  the  town  without  ever  having  to  ask  his 
way,  as  he  could  take  an  observation  for  himself  at 
the  corner  of  every  street. 

My  stay  in  Sacramento  on  this  occasion  was 
limited  to  a  few  hours.  I  went  to  a  large  hotel, 
which  was  also  the  great  staging-house,  and  here 
I  snoozed  till  about  five  o'clock,  when,  it  being 
still  quite  dark,  the  whole  house  woke  up  into 
active  life.  About  a  hundred  of  us  breakfasted 
by  candlelight,  and,  going  out  into  the  bar-room 
while  day  was  just  dawning,  we  found,  turned  out 
in  front  of  the  hotel,  about  four-and-twenty  four- 
horse  coaches,  all  bound  for  different  places  in  the 
mines.  The  street  was  completely  blocked  up  with 
them,  and  crowds  of  men  were  taking  their  seats, 
while  others  were  fortifying  themselves  for  their 
journey  at  the  bar. 

The  coaches  were  of  various  kinds.  Some  were 
light-spring-waggons — mere  oblong  boxes,  with  four 
or  five  seats  placed  across  them ;  others  were  of  the 
same  build,  but  better  finished,  and  covered  by  an 
awning';  and  there  were  also  numbers  of  regular 
American  stage-coaches,  huge  high -hung  things 
which  carry  nine  inside  upon  three  seats,  the  middle 
one  of  which  is  between  the  two  doors. 

The  place  which  I  had  intended  should   be   the 


scene  of  my  first  mining  exploits,  was  a  village 
rejoicing  in  the  suggestive  appellation  of  Han gt own  ; 
designated,  however,  in  official  documents  as  Placer- 
ville.  It  received  its  name  of  Hangtown  while  yet 
in  its  infancy  from  the  number  of  malefactors  who 
had  there  expiated  their  crimes  at  the  hands  of  Judge 
Lynch.  I  soon  found  the  stage  for  that  place — it 
happened  to  be  one  of  the  oblong  boxes — and,  pitch- 
ing in  my  roll  of  blankets,  I  took  my  seat  and  lighted 
my  pipe  that  I  might  the  more  fully  enjoy  the  scene 
around  me.  And  a  scene  it  was,  such  as  few  parts 
of  the  world  can  now  show,  and  which  would  have 
gladdened  the  hearts  of  those  who  mourn  over  the 
degeneracy  of  the  present  age,  and  sigh  for  the  good 
old  days  of  stage-coaches. 

Here,  certainly,  the  genuine  old  mail-coach,  the 
guard  with  his  tin  horn,  and  the  jolly  old  coachman 
with  his  red  face,  were  not  to  be  found  ;  but  the 
horses  were  as  good  as  ever  galloped  with  her  Ma- 
jesty's mail.  The  teams  were  all  headed  the  same 
way,  and  with  their  stages,  four  or  five  abreast,  occu- 
pied the  whole  of  the  wide  street  for  a  distance  of 
sixty  or  seventy  yards.  The  horses  were  restive,  and 
pawing,  and  snorting,  and  kicking  ;  and  passengers 
were  trying  to  navigate  to  their  proper  stages  through 
the  labyrinth  of  wheels  and  horses,  and  frequently 
climbing  over  half-a-dozen  waggons  to  shorten  their 
journey.  Grooms  were  standing  at  the  leaders'  heads, 
trying  to  keep  them  quiet,  and  the  drivers  were  sit- 
ting on  their  boxes,  or  seats  rather,  for  they  scorn  a 


high  seat,  and  were  swearing  at  each  other  in  a  very 
shocking  manner,  as  wheels  got  locked,  and  waggons 
were  backed  into  the  teams  behind  them,  to  the  dis- 
comfiture of  the  passengers  on  the  back-seats,  who 
found  horses'  heads  knocking  the  pipes  out  of  their 
mouths.  In  the  intervals  of  their  little  private 
battles,  the  drivers  were  shouting  to  the  crowds  of 
passengers  who  loitered  about  the  front  of  the  hotel ; 
for  there,  as  elsewhere,  people  will  wait  till  the  last 
moment ;  and  though  it  is  more  comfortable  to  sit 
than  to  stand,  men  like  to  enjoy  their  freedom  as  long 
as  possible,  before  resigning  all  control  over  their 
motions,  and  charging  with  their  precious  persons  a 
coach  or  a  train,  on  full  cock,  and  ready  to  go  off,  and 
shoot  them  out  upon  some  remote  part  of  creation. 

On  each  waggon  was  painted  the  name  of  the  place 
to  which  it  ran  ;  the  drivers  were  also  bellowing  it 
out  to  the  crowd,  and  even  among  such  a  confusion 
of  coaches  a  man  could  have  no  difficulty  in  finding 
the  one  he  -wanted.  One  would  have  thought  that 
the  individual  will  and  locomotive  power  of  a  man 
would  have  been  sufficient  to  start  him  on  his  journey ; 
but  in  this  go-ahead  country,  people  who  had  to  go 
were  not  allowed  to  remain  inert  till  the  spirit 
moved  them  to  go  ;  they  had  to  be  "  hurried  up ;"  and 
of  the  whole  crowd  of  men  who  were  standing  about 
the  hotel,  or  struggling  through  the  maze  of  waggons, 
only  one  half  were  passengers,  the  rest  were  "runners  " 
for  the  various  stages,  who  were  exhausting  all  their 
persuasive  eloquence  in  entreating  the  passengers  to 


RUNNERS.  105 

take  their  seats  and  go.  They  were  all  mixed  up 
with  the  crowd,  and  each  was  exerting  his  lungs  to 
the  utmost.  "  Now  then,  gentlemen/'  shouts  one  of 
them,  "  all  aboard  for  Nevada  City  !  Who's  agoin  \ 
only  three  seats  left — the  last  chance  to-day  for  Ne- 
vada City — take  you  there  in  five  hours.  Who's 
there  for  Nevada  City  V  Then  catching  sight  of 
some  man  who  betrays  the  very  slightest  appearance 
of  helplessness,  or  of  not  knowing  what  he  is  about, 
he  pounces  upon  him,  saying  "  Nevada  City,  sir  ? — 
this  way — just  in  time,"  and  seizing  him  by  the  arm, 
he  drags  him  into  the  crowd  of  stages,  and  almost 
has  him  bundled  into  that  for  Nevada  City  before  the 
poor  devil  can  make  it  understood  that  it  is  Caloma 
he  wants  to  go  to,  and  not  Nevada  City.  His  captor 
then  calls  out  to  some  one  of  his  brother  runners  who 
is  collecting  passengers  for  Caloma — "  Oh  Bill ! — oh 

Bill !  where  the are  you  1 "     "  Hullo  !"  says  Bill 

from  the  other  end  of  the  crowd.  "  Here's  a  man  for 
Caloma  ! "  shouts  the  other,  still  holding  on  to  his 
prize  in  case  he  should  escape  before  Bill  comes  up  to 
take  charge  of  him. 

This  sort  of  thing  was  going  on  all  the  time.  It 
was  very  ridiculous.  Apparently,  if  a  hundred  men 
wanted  to  go  anywhere,  it  required  a  hundred  more 
to  despatch  them.  There  was  certainly  no  danger 
of  any  one  being  left  behind  ;  on  the  contrary,  the 
probability  was,  that  any  weak-minded  man  who  hap- 
pened to  be  passing  by,  would  be  shipped  off  to  parts 
unknown  before  he  could  collect  his  ideas. 

106  LUGGAGE. 

There  were  few  opposition  stages,  excepting  for 
Marysville,  and  one  or  two  of  the  larger  places ;  they 
were  all  crammed  full — and  of  what  use  these  "  run- 
ners "  or  "  tooters"  were  to  anybody,  was  not  very 
apparent,  at  least  to  the  uninitiated.  But  they  are  a 
common  institution  with  the  Americans,  who  are  not 
very  likely  to  support  such  a  corps  of  men  if  their 
services  bring  no  return.  In  fact,  it  is  merely  part  of 
the  American  system  of  advertising,  and  forcing  the 
public  to  avail  themselves  of  certain  opportunities, 
by  repeatedly  and  pertinaciously  representing  to  them 
that  they  have  it  in  their  power  to  do  so.  In  the 
States,  to  blow  your  own  horn,  and  to  make  as  much 
noise  as  possible  with  it,  is  the  fundamental  principle 
of  all  business.  The  most  eminent  lawyers  and  doc- 
tors advertise,  and  the  names  of  the  first  merchants 
appear  in  the  newspapers  every  day.  A  man's  own 
personal  exertions  are  not  sufficient  to  keep  the  world 
aware  of  his  existence,  and  without  advertising  he 
would  be  to  all  intents  and  purposes  dead.  Modest 
merit  does  not  wait  for  its  reward — it  is  rather  too 
smart  for  that — it  clamours  for  it,  and  consequently 
gets  it  all  the  sooner. 

However,  I  was  not  thinking  of  this  while  sitting 
on  the  Hangtown  stage.  I  had  too  much  to  look  at? 
and  some  of  my  neighbours  also  took  up  my  atten- 
tion. I  found  seated  around  me  a  varied  assortment 
of  human  nature.  A  New-Yorker,  a  Yankee,  and  an 
English  Jack-tar  were  my  immediate  neighbours, 
and  a  general  conversation  helped  to  beguile  the  time 
till  the  "  runners "  had  succeeded  in  placing  a  pas- 

THE   PLAINS.  107 

senger  upon  every  available  spot  of  every  waggon. 
There  was  no  trouble  about  luggage — that  is  an  article 
not  much  known  in  California.  Some  stray  indi- 
viduals might  have  had  a  small  carpet-bag — almost 
every  man  had  his  blankets — and  the  western  men 
were  further  encumbered  with  their  long  rifles,  the 
barrels  poking  into  everybody's  eyes,  and  the  buts  in 
the  way  of  everybody's  toes. 

At  last  the  solid  mass  of  four-horse  coaches  began 
to  dissolve.  The  drivers  gathered  up  their  reins  and 
settled  themselves  down  in  their  seats,  cracked  their 
whips,  and  swore  at  their  horses ;  the  grooms 
cleared  out  the  best  way  they  could  ;  the  passengers 
shouted  and  hurraed  ;  the  teams  in  front  set  off  at 
a  gallop  ;  the  rest  followed  them  as  soon  as  they  got 
room  to  start,  and  chevied  them  up  the  street,  all  in 
a  body,  for  about  half  a  mile,  when,  as  soon  as  we  got 
out  of  town,  we  spread  out  in  all  directions  to  every 
point  of  a  semicircle,  and  in  a  few  minutes  I  found 
myself  one  of  a  small  isolated  community,  with  which 
four  splendid  horses  were  galloping  over  the  plains 
like  mad.  No  hedges,  no  ditches,  no  houses,  no  road 
in  fact — it  was  all  a  vast  open  plain,  as  smooth  as  a 
calm  ocean.  We  might  have  been  steering  by  com- 
pass, and  it  was  like  going  to  sea ;  for  we  emerged 
from  the  city  as  from  a  landlocked  harbour,  and  fol- 
lowed our  own  course  over  the  wide  wide  world. 
The  transition  from  the  confinement  of  the  city  to  the 
vastness  of  space  was  instantaneous ;  and  our  late 
neighbours,  rapidly  diminishing  around  us,  and  get- 
ting hull  down  on  the  horizon,  might  have  been 


bound  for  the  uttermost  parts  of  the  earth,  for  all  we 
could  see  that  was  to  stop  them. 

To  sit  behind  four  horses  tearing  along  a  good 
road  is  delightful  at  any  time,  but  the  mere  fact  of 
such  rapid  locomotion  formed  only  a  small  part  of 
the  pleasure  of  our  journey. 

The  atmosphere  was  so  soft  and  balmy  that  it  was 
a  positive  enjoyment  to  feel  it  brushing  over  one's 
face  like  the  finest  floss  silk.  The  sky  was  clear  and 
cloudless,  the  bright  sunshine  warmed  us  up  to  a 
comfortable  temperature ;  and  we  were  travelling 
over  such  an  expanse  of  nature  that  our  progress, 
rapid  as  it  was,  seemed  hardly  perceptible,  unless 
measured  by  the  fast  disappearing  chimney  tops  of 
the  city,  or  by  the  occasional  clumps  of  trees  we  left 
behind  us.  The  scene  all  round  us  was  magnificent, 
and  impressed  one  as  much  with  his  own  insignifi- 
cance as  though  he  beheld  the  countries  of  the  earth 
from  the  summit  of  a  high  mountain. 

Out  of  sight  of  land  at  sea  one  experiences  a  cer- 
tain feeling  of  isolation  :  there  is  nothing  to  connect 
one's  ideas  with  the  habitable  globe  but  the  ship  on 
which  one  stands  ;  but  there  is  also  nothing  to  carry 
the  imagination  beyond  what  one  does  see,  and  the 
view  is  limited  to  a  few  miles.  But  here,  we  were 
upon  an  ocean  of  grass-covered  earth,  dotted  with 
trees,  and  sparkling  in  the  sunshine  with  the  gor- 
geous hues  of  the  dense  patches  of  wild  flowers ; 
while  far  beyond  the  horizon  of  the  plains  there  rose 
mountains  beyond  mountains,  all  so  distinctly  seen 
as  to  leave  no  uncertainty  as  to  the  shape  or  the 

THE    PLAINS    IN    SUMMER.  109 

relative  position  of  any  one  of  them,  and  fading 
away  in  regular  gradation  till  the  most  distinct, 
though  clearly  defined,  seemed  still  to  be  the  most 
natural  and  satisfactory  point  at  which  the  view 
should  terminate.  It  was  as  if  the  circumference  of 
the  earth  had  been  lifted  up  to  the  utmost  range  of 
vision,  and  there  melted  into  air. 

Such  was  the  view  ahead  of  us  as  we  travelled 
towards  the  mines,  where  wavy  outlines  of  mountains 
appeared  one  above  another,  drawing  together  as 
they  vanished,  and  at  last  indenting  the  sky  with  the 
snowy  peaks  of  the  Sierra  Nevada.  On  either  side  of 
us  the  mountains,  appearing  above  the  horizon,  were 
hundreds  of  miles  distant,  and  the  view  behind  us  was 
more  abruptly  terminated  by  the  coast  range,  which 
lies  between  the  Sacramento  river  and  the  Pacific. 

It  was  the  commencement  of  spring,  and  at  that 
season  the  plains  are  seen  to  advantage.  But  after  a 
few  weeks  of  dry  weather  the  hot  sun  burns  up  every 
blade  of  vegetation,  the  ground  presents  a  cracked 
surface  of  hard-baked  earth,  and  the  roads  are  ankle- 
deep  in  the  finest  and  most  penetrating  kind  of  dust, 
which  rises  in  clouds  like  clouds  of  smoke,  saturating 
one's  clothes,  and  impregnating  one's  whole  system. 

We  made  a  straight  course  of  it  across  the  plains 
for  about  thirty  miles,  changing  horses  occasionally 
at  some  of  the  numerous  wayside  inns,  and  passing 
numbers  of  waggons  drawn  by  teams  of  six  or  eight 
mules  or  oxen,  and  laden  with  supplies  for  the  mines. 

The  ascent  from  the  plains  was  very  gradual,  over 
a  hilly  country,  well  wooded  with  oaks  and  pines. 


Our  pace  here  was  not  so  killing  as  it  had  been. 
We  had  frequently  long  hills  to  climb,  where  all 
hands  were  obliged  to  get  out  and  walk  ;  but  we 
made  up  for  the  delay  by  galloping  down  the  descent 
on  the  other  side. 

The  road,  which,  though  in  some  places  very  nar- 
row, for  the  most  part  spread  out  to  two  or  three  times 
the  width  of  an  ordinary  road,  was  covered  with 
stumps  and  large  rocks  ;  it  was  full  of  deep  ruts  and 
hollows,  and  roots  of  trees  spread  all  over  it. 

To  any  one  not  used  to  such  roads  or  to  such 
driving,  an  upset  would  have  seemed  inevitable.  If 
there  was  safety  in  speed,  however,  we  were  safe 
enough,  and  all  sense  of  danger  was  lost  in  admira- 
tion of  the  coolness  and  dexterity  of  the  driver  as  he 
circumvented  every  obstacle,  but  without  going  one 
inch  farther  than  necessary  out  of  his  way  to  save  us 
from  perdition.  He  went  through  extraordinary 
bodily  contortions,  which  would  have  shocked  an 
English  coachman  out  of  his  propriety ;  but,  at  the 
same  time,  he  performed  such  feats  as  no  one  would 
have  dared  to  attempt  who  had  never  been  used  to 
anything  worse  than  an  English  road.  With  his 
right  foot  he  managed  a  break,  and,  clawing  at  the 
reins  with  both  hands,  he  swayed  his  body  from  side 
to  side  to  preserve  his  equilibrium,  as  now  on  the 
right  pair  of  wheels,  now  on  the  left,  he  cut  the 
"  outside  edge "  round  a  stump  or  a  rock ;  and 
when  coming  to  a  spot  where  he  was  going  to 
execute  a  difficult  manoeuvre  on  a  piece  of  road 
which  slanted  violentlv  down  to  one  side,  he  trimmed 

WE   ENTER   THE    "MINES."  Ill 

the  waggon  as  one  would  a  small  boat  in  a  squall, 
and  made  us  all  crowd  up  to  the  weather  side  to 
prevent  a  capsize. 

When  about  ten  miles  from  the  plains,  I  first  saw 
the  actual  reality  of  gold-digging.  Four  or  five 
men  were  working  in  a  ravine  by  the  roadside,  dig- 
ging holes  like  so  many  grave-diggers.  I  then  con- 
sidered myself  fairly  in  "  the  mines,"  and  experienced  a 
disagreeable  consciousness  that  we  might  be  passing 
over  huge  masses  of  gold,  only  concealed  from  us  by 
an  inch  or  two  of  earth. 

As  we  travelled  onwards,  we  passed  at  intervals 
numerous  parties  of  miners,  and  the  country  assumed 
a  more  inhabited  appearance.  Log-cabins  and  clap- 
board shanties  were  to  be  seen  among  the  trees  ;  and 
occasionally  we  found  about  a  dozen  of  such  houses 
grouped  together  by  the  roadside,  and  dignified  with 
the  name  of  a  town. 

For  several  miles  again  the  country  would  seem 
to  have  been  deserted.  That  it  had  once  been  a 
busy  scene  was  evident  from  the  uptorn  earth  in  the 
ravines  and  hollows,  and  from  the  numbers  of  un- 
occupied cabins  ;  but  the  cream  of  such  diggings 
had  already  been  taken,  and  they  were  not  now 
sufficiently  rich  to  suit  the  ambitious  ideas  of  the 

After  travelling  about  thirty  miles  over  this  moun- 
tainous region,  ascending  gradually  all  the  while, 
we  arrived  at  Hangtown  in  the  afternoon,  having 
accomplished  the  sixty  miles  from  Sacramento  city 
in  about  eight  hours. 




THE  town  of  Placerville — or  Hangtown,  as  it  was 
commonly  called — consisted  of  one  long  straggling 
street  of  clapboard  houses  and  log  cabins,  built  in  a 
hollow  at  the  side  of  a  creek,  and  surrounded  by  high 
and  steep  hills. 

The  diggings  here  had  been  exceedingly  rich — men 
used  to  pick  the  chunks  of  gold  out  of  the  crevices  of 
the  rocks  in  the  ravines  with  no  other  tool  than  a 
bowie-knife ;  but  these  days  had  passed,  and  now 
the  whole  surface  of  the  surrounding  country  showed 
the  amount  of  real  hard  work  which  had  been  done. 
The  beds  of  the  numerous  ravines  which  wrinkle  the 
faces  of  the  hills,  the  bed  of  the  creek,  and  all  the 
little  flats  alongside  of  it,  were  a  confused  mass  of 
heaps  of  dirt  and  piles  of  stones  lying  around  the 
innumerable  holes,  about  six  feet  square  and  five  or 


six  feet  deep,  from  which  they  had  been  thrown  out. 
The  original  course  of  the  creek  was  completely  obli- 
terated, its  waters  being  distributed  into  numberless 
little  ditches,  and  from  them  conducted  into  the 
"long  toms"  of  the  miners  through  canvass  hoses, 
looking  like  immensely  long  slimy  sea-serpents. 

The  number  of  bare  stumps  of  what  had  once  been 
gigantic  pine  trees,  dotted  over  the  naked  hill-sides 
surrounding  the  town,  showed  how  freely  the  axe  had 
been  used,  and  to  what  purpose  was  apparent  in  the 
extent  of  the  town  itself,  and  in  the  numerous  log- 
cabins  scattered  over  the  hills,  in  situations  apparently 
chosen  at  the  caprice  of  the  owners,  but  in  reality 
with  a  view  to  be  near  to  their  diggings,  and  at  the 
same  time  to  be  within  a  convenient  distance  of  water 
and  firewood. 

Along  the  whole  length  of  the  creek,  as  far  as  one 
could  see,  on  the  banks  of  the  creek,  in  the  ravines, 
in  the  middle  of  the  principal  and  only  street  of  the 
town,  and  even  inside  some  of  the  houses,  were  parties 
of  miners,  numbering  from  three  or  four  to  a  dozen, 
all  hard  at  work,  some  laying  into  it  with  picks,  some 
shovelling  the  dirt  into  the  "  long  toms,"  or  with  long- 
handled  shovels  washing  the  dirt  thrown  in,  and 
throwing  out  the  stones,  while  others  were  working 
pumps  or  baling  water  out  of  the  holes  with  buckets. 
There  was  a  continual  noise  and  clatter,  as  mud,  dirt, 
stones,  and  water  were  thrown  about  in  all  directions ; 
and  the  men,  dressed  in  ragged  clothes  and  big  boots, 
wielding  picks  and  shovels,  and  rolling  big  rocks  about, 


114  THE  STREET. 

were  all  working  as  if  for  their  lives,  going  into  it 
with  a  will,  and  a  degree  of  energy,  not  usually  seen 
among  labouring  men.  It  was  altogether  a  scene 
which  conveyed  the  idea  of  hard  work  in  the  fullest 
sense  of  the  words,  and  in  comparison  with  which  a 
gang  of  railway  navvies  would  have  seemed  to  be 
merely  a  party  of  gentlemen  amateurs  playing  at 
working  pour  passer  le  temps. 

A  stroll  through  the  village  revealed  the  extent  to 
which  the  ordinary  comforts  of  life  were  attainable. 
The  gambling  houses,  of  which  there  were  three  or 
four,  were  of  course  the  largest  and  most  conspicuous 
buildings ;  their  mirrors,  chandeliers,  and  other  decora- 
tions, suggesting  a  style  of  life  totally  at  variance  with 
the  outward  indications  of  everything  around  them. 

The  street  itself  was  in  many  places  knee-deep  in 
mud,  and  was  plentifully  strewed  with  old  boots, 
hats,  and  shirts,  old  sardine-boxes,  empty  tins  of  pre- 
served oysters,  empty  bottles,  worn-out  pots  and 
kettles,  old  ham-bones,  broken  picks  and  shovels,  and 
other  rubbish  too  various  to  particularise.  Here  and 
there,  in  the  middle  of  the  street,  was  a  square  hole 
about  six  feet  deep,  in  which  one  miner  was  digging, 
while  another  was  baling  the  water  out  with  a 
bucket,  and  a  third,  sitting  alongside  the  heap  of  dirt 
which  had  been  dug  up,  was  washing  it  in  a  rocker. 
Waggons,  drawn  by  six  or  eight  mules  or  oxen,  were 
navigating  along  the  street,  or  discharging  their 
strangely-assorted  cargoes  at  the  various  stores;  and 
men  in  picturesque  rags,  with  large  muddy  boots, 


long  beards,  and  brown  faces,  were  the  only  inhabit- 
ants to  be  seen. 

There  were  boarding-houses  on  the  table- d'hdte 
principle,  in  each  of  which  forty  or  fifty  hungry 
miners  sat  down  three  times  a-day  to  an  oilcloth- 
covered  table,  and  in  the  course  of  about  three 
minutes  surfeited  themselves  on  salt  pork,  greasy 
steaks,  and  pickles.  There  were  also  two  or  three 
"  hotels,"  where  much  the  same  sort  of  fare  was  to  be 
had,  with  the  extra  luxuries  of  a  table-cloth  and  a 
superior  quality  of  knives  and  forks. 

The  stores  were  curious  places.  There  was  no 
specialty  about  them — everything  was  to  be  found 
in  them  which  it  could  be  supposed  that  any  one 
could  possibly  want,  excepting  fresh  beef  (there  was 
a  butcher  who  monopolised  the  sale  of  that  article). 

On  entering  a  store,  one  would  find  the  storekeeper 
in  much  the  same  style  of  costume  as  the  miners, 
very  probably  sitting  on  an  empty  keg  at  a  rickety 
little  table,  playing  "seven  up"  for  "the  liquor"  with 
one  of  his  customers. 

The  counter  served  also  the  purpose  of  a  bar,  and 
behind  it  was  the  usual  array  of  bottles  and  decanters, 
while  on  shelves  above  them  was  an  ornamental  dis- 
play of  boxes  of  sardines,  and  brightly-coloured  tins 
of  preserved  meats  and  vegetables  with  showy  labels, 
interspersed  with  bottles  of  champagne  and  strangely- 
shaped  bottles  of  exceedingly  green  pickles,  the  whole 
being  arranged  with  some  degree  of  taste. 

Goods  and  provisions  of  every  description  were 

116  THE   JEWS. 

stowed  away  promiscuously  all  round  the  store,  in 
the  middle  of  which  was  invariably  a  small  table 
with  a  bench,  or  some  empty  boxes  and  barrels  for 
the  miners  to  sit  on  while  they  played  cards,  spent 
their  money  in  brandy  and  oysters,  and  occasionally 
got  drunk. 

The  clothing  trade  was  almost  entirely  in  the  hands 
of  the  Jews,  who  are  very  numerous  in  California, 
and  devote  their  time  and  energies  exclusively  to  sup- 
plying their  Christian  brethren  with  the  necessary 
articles  of  wearing  apparel. 

In  travelling  through  the  mines  from  one  end  to 
the  other,  I  never  saw  a  Jew  lift  a  pick  or  shovel  to 
do  a  single  stroke  of  work,  or,  in  fact,  occupy  himself 
in  any  other  way  than  in  selling  slops.  While  men 
of  all  classes  and  of  every  nation  showed  such  versa- 
tility in  betaking  themselves  to  whatever  business  or 
occupation  appeared  at  the  time  to  be  most  advisable, 
without  reference  to  their  antecedents,  and  in  a 
country  where  no  man,  to  whatever  class  of  society 
he  belonged,  was  in  the  least  degree  ashamed  to  roll 
up  his  sleeves  and  dig  in  the  mines  for  gold,  or  to 
engage  in  any  other  kind  of  manual  labour,  it  was  a 
very  remarkable  fact  that  the  Jews  were  the  only 
people  among  whom  this  was  not  observable. 

They  were  very  numerous — so  much  so,  that  the 
business  to  which  they  confined  themselves  could 
hardly  have  yielded  to  every  individual  a  fair  average 
California  rate  of  remuneration.  But  they  seemed  to 
be  proof  against  all  temptation  to  move  out  of  their 


own  limited  sphere  of  industry,  and  of  course,  con- 
centrated upon  one  point  as  their  energies  were,  they 
kept  pace  with  the  go-ahead  spirit  of  the  times. 
Clothing  of  all  sorts  could  be  bought  in  any  part  of 
the  mines  more  cheaply  than  in  San  Francisco,  where 
rents  were  so  very  high  that  retail  prices  of  every- 
thing were  most  exorbitant ;  and  scarcely  did  twenty 
or  thirty  miners  collect  in  any  out-of-the-way  place, 
upon  newly  discovered  diggings,  before  the  inevitable 
Jew  slop-seller  also  made  his  appearance,  to  play  his 
allotted  part  in  the  newly-formed  community. 

The  Jew  slop-shops  were  generally  rattletrap  erec- 
tions about  the  size  of  a  bathing-machine,  so  small 
that  one  half  of  the  stock  had  to  be  displayed  sus- 
pended from  projecting  sticks  outside.  They  were 
filled  with  red  and  blue  flannel  shirts,  thick  boots, 
and  other  articles  suited  to  the  wants  of  the  miners, 
along  with  Colt's  revolvers  and  bowie-knives,  brass 
jewellery,  and  diamonds  like  young  Koh-i-Noors. 

Almost  every  man,  after  a  short  residence  in  Cali- 
fornia, became  changed  to  a  certain  extent  in  his 
outward  appearance.  In  the  mines  especially,  to  the 
great  majority  of  men,  the  usual  style  of  dress  was  one 
to  which  they  had  never  been  accustomed ;  and  those 
to  whom  it  might  have  been  supposed  such  a  costume 
was  not  so  strange,  or  who  were  even  wearing  the  old 
clothes  they  had  brought  with  them  to  the  country, 
acquired  a  certain  California  air,  which  would  have 
made  them  remarkable  in  whatever  part  of  the  world 
they  came  from,  had  they  been  suddenly  transplanted 

118  SUNDAY    IN   THE   MINES. 

there.  But  to  this  rule  also  the  Jews  formed  a  very 
striking  exception.  In  their  appearance  there  was 
nothing  whatever  at  all  suggestive  of  California  ;  they 
were  exactly  the  same  unwashed-looking,  slobbery,  slip- 
shod individuals  that  one  sees  in  every  seaport  town. 

During  the  week,  and  especially  when  the  miners 
were  all  at  work,  Hangtown  was  comparatively  quiet ; 
but  on  Sundays  it  was  a  very  different  place.  On 
that  day  the  miners  living  within  eight  or  ten  miles 
all  flocked  in  to  buy  provisions  for  the  week — to 
spend  their  money  in  the  gambling  rooms — to  play 
cards — to  get  their  letters  from  home — and  to  refresh 
themselves,  after  a  week's  labour  and  isolation  in  the 
mountains,  in  enjoying  the  excitement  of  the  scene 
according  to  their  tastes. 

The  gamblers  on  Sundays  reaped  a  rich  harvest ; 
their  tables  were  thronged  with  crowds  of  miners, 
betting  eagerly,  and  of  course  losing  their  money. 
Many  men  came  in,  Sunday  after  Sunday,  and 
gambled  off  all  the  gold  they  had  dug  during  the 
week,  having  to  get  credit  at  a  store  for  their  next 
week's  provisions,  and  returning  to  their  diggings  to 
work  for  six  days  in  getting  more  gold,  which  would 
all  be  transferred  the  next  Sunday  to  the  gamblers, 
in  the  vain  hope  of  recovering  what  had  been  al- 
ready lost. 

The  street  was  crowded  all  day  with  miners  loafing 
about  from  store  to  store,  making  their  purchases  and 
asking  each  other  to  drink,  the  effects  of  which  began 


to  be  seen  at  an  early  hour  in  the  number  of  drunken 
men,  and  the  consequent  frequency  of  rows  and 
quarrels.  Almost  every  man  wore  a  pistol  or  a 
knife — many  wore  both — but  they  were  rarely  used. 
The  liberal  and  prompt  administration  of  Lynch  law 
had  done  a  great  deal  towards  checking  the  wanton 
and  indiscriminate  use  of  these  weapons  on  any  slight 
occasion.  The  utmost  latitude  was  allowed  in  the 
exercise  of  self-defence.  In  the  case  of  a  row,  it  was 
not  necessary  to  wait  till  a  pistol  was  actually  levelled 
at  one's  head — if  a  man  made  even  a  motion  towards 
drawing  a  weapon,  it  was  considered  perfectly  justifi- 
able to  shoot  him  first,  if  possible.  The  very  preva- 
lence of  the  custom  of  carrying  arms  thus  in  a  great 
measure  was  a  cause  of  their  being  seldom  used. 
They  were  never  drawn  out  of  bravado,  for  when  a 
man  once  drew  his  pistol,  he  had  to  be  prepared  to 
use  it,  and  to  use  it  quickly,  or  he  might  expect  to  be 
laid  low  by  a  ball  from  his  adversary ;  and  again,  if 
he  shot  a  man  without  sufficient  provocation,  he 
was  pretty  sure  of  being  accommodated  with  a 
hempen  cravat  by  Judge  Lynch. 

The  storekeepers  did  more  business  on  Sundays 
than  in  all  the  rest  of  the  week ;  and  in  the  af- 
ternoon crowds  of  miners  could  be  seen  dispersing 
over  the  hills  in  every  direction,  laden  with  the  pro- 
visions they  had  been  purchasing,  chiefly  flour,  pork, 
and  beans,  and  perhaps  a  lump  of  fresh  beef. 

There  was  only  one  place  of  public  worship  in 


Hangtown  at  that  time,  a  very  neat  little  wooden 
edifice,  which  belonged  to  some  denomination  of 
Methodists,  and  seemed  to  be  well  attended. 

There  was  also  a  newspaper  published  two  or  three 
times  a-week,  which  kept  the  inhabitants  "posted 
up"  as  to  what  was  going  on  in  the  world. 

The  richest  deposits  of  gold  were  found  in  the  beds 
and  banks  of  the  rivers,  creeks,  and  ravines,  in  the 
flats  on  the  convex  side  of  the  bends  of  the  streams, 
and  in  many  of  the  flats  and  hollows  high  up  in  the 
mountains.  The  precious  metal  was  also  abstracted 
from  the  very  hearts  of  the  mountains,  through 
tunnels  drifted  into  them  for  several  hundred  yards  ; 
and  in  some  places  real  mining  was  carried  on  in  the 
bowels  of  the  earth  by  means  of  shafts  sunk  to  the 
depth  of  a  couple  of  hundred  feet. 

The  principal  diggings  in  the  neighbourhood  of 
Hangtown  were  surface  diggings ;  but,  with  the 
exception  of  river  diggings,  every  kind  of  mining 
operation  was  to  be  seen  in  full  force. 

The  gold  is  found  at  various  depths  from  the  sur- 
face ;  but  the  dirt  on  the  bed-rock  is  the  richest,  as 
the  gold  naturally  in  time  sinks  through  earth  and 
gravel,  till  it  is  arrested  in  its  downward  progress  by 
the  solid  rock. 

The  diggings  here  were  from  four  to  six  or  seven 
feet  deep;  the  layer  of  "pay-dirt"  being  about  a 
couple  of  feet  thick  on  the  top  of  the  bed-rock. 

I  should  mention  that  "  dirt"  is  the  word  univer- 
sally used  in  California  to  signify  the  substance  dug, 

"LONG  TOMS/'  121 

earth,  clay,  gravel,  loose  slate,  or  whatever  other  name 
might  be  more  appropriate.  The  miners  talk  of  rich 
dirt  and  poor  dirt,  and  of  "  stripping  off "  so  many 
feet  of  "  top  dirt"  before  getting  to  "  pay-dirt,"  the 
latter  meaning  dirt  with  so  much  gold  in  it  that  it 
will  pay  to  dig  it  up  and  wash  it. 

The  apparatus  generally  used  for  washing  was  a 
"  long  torn,"  which  was  nothing  more  than  a  wooden 
trough  from  twelve  to  twenty-five  feet  long,  and 
about  a  foot  wide.  At  the  lower  end  it  widens  con- 
siderably, and  the  floor  of  it  is  there  a  sheet  of  iron 
pierced  with  holes  half  an  inch  in  diameter,  under 
which  is  placed  a  flat  box  a  couple  of  inches  deep. 
The  long  torn  is  set  at  a  slight  inclination  over 
the  place  which  is  to  be  worked,  and  a  stream  of 
water  is  kept  running  through  it  by  means  of  a  hose, 
the  mouth  of  which  is  inserted  in  a  dam  built  for  the 
purpose  high  enough  up  the  stream  to  gain  the 
requisite  elevation  ;  and  while  some  of  the  party 
shovel  the  dirt  into  the  torn  as  fast  as  they  can  dig 
it  up,  one  man  stands  at  the  lower  end  stirring  up 
the  dirt  as  it  is  washed  down,  separating  the  stones 
and  throwing  them  out,  while  the  earth  and  small 
gravel  falls  with  the  water  through  the  sieve  into  the 
"  ripple-box."  This  box  is  about  five  feet  long,  and 
is  crossed  by  two  partitions.  It  is  also  placed  at  an 
inclination,  so  that  the  water  falling  into  it  keeps  the 
dirt  loose,  allowing  the  gold  and  heavy  particles  to 
settle  to  the  bottom,  while  all  the  lighter  stuff  washes 
over  the  end  of  the  box  along  with  the  water.  When 

122  "  ROCKERS." 

the  day's  work  is  over,  the  dirt  is  taken  from  the 
"ripple-box"  and  is  "washed  out"  in  a  "wash-pan," 
a  round  tin  dish,  eighteen  inches  in  diameter,  with 
shelving  sides  three  or  four  inches  deep.  In  washing 
out  a  panful  of  dirt,  it  has  to  be  placed  in  water  deep 
enough  to  cover  it  over  ;  the  dirt  is  stirred  up  with 
the  hands,  and  the  gravel  thrown  out ;  the  pan  is 
then  taken  in  both  hands,  and  by  an  indescribable 
series  of  manoeuvres  all  the  dirt  is  gradually  washed 
out  of  it,  leaving  nothing  but  the  gold  and  a  small 
quantity  of  black  sand.  This  black  sand  is  mineral 
(some  oxide  or  other  salt  of  iron),  and  is  so  heavy 
that  it  is  not  possible  to  wash  it  all  out ;  it  has  to  be 
blown  out  of  the  gold  afterwards  when  dry. 

Another  mode  of  washing  dirt,  but  much  more 
tedious,  and  consequently  only  resorted  to  wjiere  a 
sufficient  supply  of  water  for  a  long  torn  could  not 
be  obtained,  was  by  means  of  an  apparatus  called  a 
"  rocker"  or  "  cradle."  This  was  merely  a  wooden 
cradle,  on  the  top  of  which  was  a  sieve.  The  dirt 
was  put  into  this,  and  a  miner,  sitting  alongside  of  it, 
rocked  the  cradle  with  one  hand,  while  with  a  dipper 
in  the  other  he  kept  baling  water  on  to  the  dirt. 
This  acted  on  the  same  principle  as  the  "  torn,"  and 
had  formerly  been  the  only  contrivance  in  use  ;  but 
it  was  now  seldom  seen,  as  the  long  torn  effected 
such  a  saving  of  time  and  labour.  The  latter  was 
set  immediately  over  the  claim,  and  the  dirt  was 
shovelled  into  it  at  once,  while  a  rocker  had  to  be  set 
alongside  of  the  water,  and  the  dirt  was  carried  to  it 


in  buckets  from  the  place  which  was  being  worked. 
Three  men  working  together  with  a  rocker — one  dig- 
ging, another  carrying  the  dirt  in  buckets,  and  the 
third  rocking  the  cradle — would  wash  on  an  average  a 
hundred  bucketfuls  of  dirt  to  the  man  in  the  course 
of  the  day.  With  a  "long  torn"  the  dirt  was  so 
easily  washed  that  parties  of  six  or  eight  could  work 
together  to  advantage,  and  four  or  five  hundred 
bucketfuls  of  dirt  a-day  to  each  one  of  the  party  was 
a  usual  day's  work. 

I  met  a  San  Francisco  friend  in  Hangtown  prac- 
tising his  profession  as  a  doctor,  who  very  hospitably 
offered  me  quarters  in  his  cabin,  which  I  gladly 
accepted.  The  accommodation  was  not  .very  luxuri- 
ous, being  merely  six  feet  of  the  floor  on  which  to 
spread  my  blankets.  My  host,  however,  had  no 
better  bed  himself,  and  indeed  it  was  as  much  as 
most  men  cared  about.  Those  who  were  very  par- 
ticular preferred  sleeping  on  a  table  or  a  bench 
when  they  were  to  be  had  ;  bunks  and  shelves  were 
also  much  in  fashion  ;  but  the  difference  in  comfort 
was  a  mere  matter  of  imagination,  for  mattresses 
were  not  known,  and  an  earthen  floor  was  quite  as 
soft  as  any  wooden  board.  Three  or  four  miners 
were  also  inmates  of  the  doctor's  cabin.  They  were 
quondam  New  South  Wales  squatters,  who  had  been 
mining  for  several  months  in  a  distant  part  of  the 
country,  and  were  now  going  to  work  a  claim  about 
two  miles  up  the  creek  from  Hangtown.  As  they 
wanted  another  hand  to  work  their  long  torn  with 


them,  I  very  readily  joined  their  party.  For  several 
days  we  worked  this  place,  trudging  out  to  it 
when  it  was  hardly  daylight,  taking  with  us  our 
dinner,  which  consisted  of  beefsteaks  and  bread, 
and  returning  to  Hangtown  about  dark ;  but  the 
claim  did  not  prove  rich  enough  to  satisfy  us,  so  we 
abandoned  it,  and  went  "  prospecting,"  which  means 
looking  about  for  a  more  likely  place. 

A  "  prospecter"  goes  out  with  a  pick  and  shovel, 
and  a  wash-pan;  and  to  test  the  richness  of  a  place 
he  digs  down  till  he  reaches  the  dirt  in  which  it 
may  be  expected  that  the  gold  will  be  found ;  and 
washing  out  a  panful  of  this,  he  can  easily  calculate, 
from  the  amount  of  gold  which  he  finds  in  it,  how 
much  could  be  taken  out  in  a  day's  work.  An  old 
miner,  looking  at  the  few  specks  of  gold  in  the 
bottom  of  his  pan,  can  tell  their  value  within  a  few 
cents  ;  calling  it  a  twelve  or  a  twenty  cent  "  pros- 
pect," as  it  may  be.  If,  on  washing  out  a  panful  of 
dirt,  a  mere  speck  of  gold  remained,  just  enough  to 
swear  by,  such  dirt  was  said  to  have  only  "  the 
colour,"  and  was  not  worth  digging.  A  twelve -cent 
prospect  was  considered  a  pretty  good  one  ;  but  in 
estimating  the  probable  result  of  a  day's  work, 
allowance  had  to  be  made  for  the  time  and  labour 
to  be  expended  in  removing  top-dirt,  and  in  other- 
wise preparing  the  claim  for  being  worked. 

To  establish  one's  claim  to  a  piece  of  ground,  all 
that  was  requisite  was  to  leave  upon  it  a  pick  or 

A   NEW   CLAIM.  125 

shovel,  or  other  mining  tool.  The  extent  of  ground 
allowed  to  each  individual  varied  in  different  dig- 
gings from  ten  to  thirty  feet  square,  and  was  fixed 
by  the  miners  themselves,  who  also  made  their  own 
laws,  defining  the  rights  and  duties  of  those  holding 
claims;  and  any  dispute  on  such  subjects  was  settled 
by  calling  together  a  few  of  the  neighbouring  miners, 
who  would  enforce  the  due  observance  of  the  laws 
of  the  diggings.  After  prospecting  for  two  or  three 
days,  we  concluded  to  take  up  a  claim  near  a  small 
settlement  called  Middletown,  two  or  three  miles 
distant  from  Hangtown.  It  was  situated  by  the 
side  of  a  small  creek,  in  a  rolling  hilly  country,  and 
consisted  of  about  a  dozen  cabins,  one  of  which  was 
a  store  supplied  with  flour,  pork,  tobacco,  and  other 

We  found  near  our  claim  a  very  comfortable 
cabin,  which  the  owner  had  deserted,  and  in  which 
we  established  ourselves.  We  had  plenty  of  fire- 
wood and  water  close  to  us,  and  being  only  two 
miles  from  Hangtown,  we  kept  ourselves  well  sup- 
plied with  fresh  beef.  We  cooked  our  "dampers" 
in  New  South  Wales  fashion,  and  lived  on  the  fat 
of  the  land,  our  bill  of  fare  being  beefsteaks,  dam- 
per, and  tea  for  breakfast,  dinner,  and  supper.  A 
damper  is  a  very  good  thing,  but  not  commonly 
seen  in  California,  excepting  among  men  from  New 
South  Wales.  A  quantity  of  flour  and  water,  with 
a  pinch  or  two  of  salt,  is  worked  into  a  dough, 


and,  raking  down  a  good  hardwood  fire,  it  is  placed 
on  the  hot  ashes,  and  then  smothered  in  more  hot 
ashes  to  the  depth  of  two  or  three  inches,  on  the  top 
of  which  is  placed  a  quantity  of  the  still  burning 
embers.  A  very  little  practice  enables  one  to  judge 
from  the  feel  of  the  crust  when  it  is  sufficiently 
cooked.  The  great  advantage  of  a  damper  is,  that 
it  retains  a  certain  amount  of  moisture,  and  is  as 
good  when  a  week  old  as  when  fresh  baked.  It  is 
very  solid  and  heavy,  and  a  little  of  it  goes  a  great 
way,  which  of  itself  is  no  small  recommendation 
when  one  eats  only  to  live. 

Another  sort  of  bread  we  very  frequently  made 
by  filling  a  frying-pan  with  dough,  and  sticking  it 
up  on  end  to  roast  before  the  fire. 

The  Americans  do  not  understand  dampers.  They 
either  bake  bread,  using  saleratus  to  make  it  rise,  or 
else  they  make  flapjacks,  which  are  nothing  more 
than  pancakes  made  of  flour  and  water,  and  are  a 
very  good  substitute  for  bread  when  one  is  in  a 
hurry,  as  they  are  made  in  a  moment. 

As  for  our  beefsteaks,  they  could  not  be  beat  any- 
where. A  piece  of  an  old  iron-hoop,  twisted  into  a 
serpentine  form  and  laid  on  the  fire,  made  a  first-rate 
gridiron,  on  which  every  man  cooked  his  steak  to  his 
own  taste.  In  the  matter  of  tea  I  am  afraid  we  were 
dreadfully  extravagant,  throwing  it  into  the  pot  in 
handfuls.  It  is  a  favourite  beverage  in  the  mines — 
morning,  noon,  and  night — and  at  no  time  is  it  more 
refreshing  than  in  the  extreme  heat  of  mid-day. 

A    GRIDIRON   BED.  127 

In  the  cabin  two  bunks  had  been  fitted  up,  one 
above  the  other,  made  of  clapboards  laid  crossways, 
but  they  were  all  loose  and  warped.  I  tried  to  sleep 
on  them  one  night,  but  it  was  like  sleeping  on  a 
gridiron ;  the  smooth  earthen  floor  was  a  much 
more  easy  couch. 



WITHIN  a  few  miles  of  us  there  was  camped  a  large 
tribe  of  Indians,  who  were  generally  quite  peaceable, 
and  showed  no  hostility  to  the  whites. 

Small  parties  of  them  were  constantly  to  be  seen 
in  Hangtown,  wandering  listlessly  about  the  street, 
begging  for  bread,  meat,  or  old  clothes.  These 
Digger  Indians,  as  they  are  called,  from  the  fact  of 
their  digging  for  themselves  a  sort  of  subterranean 
abode  in  which  they  pass  the  winter,  are  most 
repulsive-looking  wretches,  and  seem  to  be  very 
little  less  degraded  and  uncivilisable  than  the  blacks 
of  New  South  Wales. 

They  are  nearly  black,  and  are  exceedingly  ugly, 
with  long  hair,  which  they  cut  straight  across  the 
forehead  just  above  the  eyes.  They  had  learned  the 
value  of  gold,  and  might  be  seen  occasionally  in 

AN   INDIAN   SWELL.  129 

unfrequented  places  washing  out  a  panful  of  dirt, 
but  they  had  no  idea  of  systematic  work.  What 
little  gold  they  got,  they  spent  in  buying  fresh  beef 
and  clothes.  They  dress  very  fantastically.  Some, 
with  no  other  garment  than  an  old  dress-coat  but- 
toned up  to  the  throat,  or  perhaps  with  only  a  hat 
and  a  pair  of  boots,  think  themselves  very  well  got 
up,  and  look  with  great  contempt  on  their  neigh- 
bours whose  wardrobe  is  not  so  extensive.  A  coat 
with  showy  linings  to  the  sleeves  is  a  great  prize ;  it 
is  worn  inside  out  to  produce  a  better  effect,  and 
pantaloons  are  frequently  worn,  or  rather  carried, 
with  the  legs  tied  round  the  waist.  They  seem  to 
think  it  impossible  to  have  too  much  of  a  good 
thing;  and  any  man  so  fortunate  as  to  be  the  pos- 
sessor of  duplicates  of  any  article  of  clothing,  puts 
them  on  one  over  the  other,  piling  hat  upon  hat 
after  the  manner  of  "  Old  clo." 

The  men  are  very  tenacious  of  their  dignity,  and 
carry  nothing  but  their  bows  and  arrows,  while  the 
attendant  squaws  are  loaded  down  with  a  large  creel 
on  their  back,  which  is  supported  by  a  band  passing 
across  the  forehead,  and  is  the  receptacle  for  all  the 
rubbish  they  pick  up.  The  squaws  have  also,  of  course, 
to  carry  the  babies ;  which,  however,  are  not  very 
troublesome,  as  they  are  wrapped  up  in  papooses  like 
those  of  the  North  American  Indians,  though  of 
infinitely  inferior  workmanship. 

They  are  very  fond  of  dogs,  and  have  always  at 
their  heels  a  number  of  the  most  wretchedly  thin, 


mangy,  starved-looking  curs,  of  a  dirty  brindled 
colour,  something  the  shape  of  a  greyhound,  but  only 
about  half  his  size.  A  strong  mutual  attachment 
exists  between  the  dogs  and  their  masters ;  but  the 
affection  of  the  latter  does  not  move  them  to  bestow 
much  food  on  their  canine  friends,  who  live  in  a  state 
of  chronic  starvation  ;  every  bone  seems  ready  to 
break  through  the  confinement  of  the  skin,  and  their 
whole  life  is  merely  a  slow  death  from  inanition. 
They  have  none  of  the  life  or  spirit  of  other  dogs, 
bat  crawl  along  as  if  every  step  was  to  be  their  last, 
with  a  look  of  most  humble  resignation,  and  so  con- 
scious of  their  degradation  that  they  never  presume 
to  hold  any  communion  with  their  civilised  fellow- 
creatures.  It  is  very  likely  that  canine  nature  can- 
not stand  such  food  as  the  Indians  are  content  to  live 
upon,  and  of  which  acorns  and  grasshoppers  are  the 
staple  articles.  There  are  plenty  of  small  animals  on 
which  one  would  think  that  a  dog  could  live  very 
well,  if  he  would  only  take  the  trouble  to  catch  them ; 
but  it  would  seem  that  a  dog,  as  long  as  he  remains 
a  companion  of  man,  is  an  animal  quite  incapable  of 
providing  for  himself. 

A  failure  of  the  acorn  crop  is  to  the  Indians  a 
national  calamity,  as  they  depend  on  it  in  a  great 
measure  for  their  subsistence  during  the  winter.  In 
the  fall  of  the  year  the  squaws  are  all  busily  employed 
in  gathering  acorns,  to  be  afterwards  stored  in  small 
conical  stacks,  and  covered  with  a  sort  of  wicker- 
work.  They  are  prepared  for  food  by  being  made 


into  a  paste,  very  much  of  the  colour  and  consist- 
ency of  opium.  Such  horrid-looking  stuff  it  is,  that 
I  never  ventured  to  taste  it ;  but  I  believe  that 
the  bitter  and  astringent  taste  of  the  raw  material 
is  in  no  way  modified  by  the  process  of  manufacture. 

As  is  the  case  with  most  savages,  the  digger  Indians 
show  remarkable  instances  of  ingenuity  in  some  of 
their  contrivances,  and  great  skill  in  the  manufacture 
of  their  weapons.  Their  bows  and  arrows  are  very- 
good  specimens  of  workmanship.  The  former  are 
shorter  than  the  bows  used  in  this  country,  but  re- 
semble them  in  every  other  particular,  even  in  the 
shape  of  the  pieces  of  horn  at  the  ends.  The  head  of 
the  arrow  is  of  the  orthodox  cut,  the  three  feathers 
being  placed  in  the  usual  position  ;  the  point,  how- 
ever, is  the  most  elaborate  part.  About  three  inches 
of  the  end  is  of  a  heavier  wood  than  the  rest  of  the 
arrow,  being  very  neatly  spliced  on  with  thin  tendons. 
The  point  itself  is  a  piece  of  Hint  chipped  down  into 
a  flat  diamond  shape,  about  the  size  of  a  diamond  on 
a  playing-card  ;  the  edges  are  very  sharp,  and  are 
notched  to  receive  the  tendons  with  which  it  is  firmly 
secured  to  the  arrow. 

The  women  make  a  kind  of  wicker-work  basket  of 
a  conical  form,  so  closely  woven  as  to  be  perfectly 
water-tight,  and  in  these  they  have  an  ingenious 
method  of  boiling  water,  by  heating  a  number  of 
stones  in  the  fire,  and  throwing  a  succession  of  them 
into  the  water  till  the  temperature  is  raised  to  boiling 

132  A    SQUAW. 

We  had  a  visit  at  our  cabin  one  Sunday  from  an 
Indian  and  his  squaw.  She  was  such  a  particularly 
ugly  specimen  of  human  nature,  that  I  made  her  sit 
down,  and  proceeded  to  take  a  sketch  of  her,  to  the 
great  delight  of  her  dutiful  husband,  who  looked  over 
my  shoulder  and  reported  progress  to  her.  I  offered 
her  the  sketch  when  I  had  finished,  but  after 
admiring  herself  in  the  bottom  of  a  new  tin  pannikin, 
the  only  substitute  for  a  looking-glass  which  I  could 
find,  and  comparing  her  own  beautiful  face  with  her 
portrait,  she  was  by  no  means  pleased,  and  would 
have  nothing  to  do  with  it.  I  suppose  she  thought  I 
had  not  done  her  justice  ;  which  was  very  likely,  for 
no  doubt  our  ideas  of  female  beauty  must  have 
differed  very  materially. 

Not  many  days  after  we  had  settled  ourselves  at 
Middletown,  news  was  brought  into  Hangtown  that 
a  white  man  had  been  killed  by  Indians  at  a  place 
called  Johnson's  Eanch,  about  twelve  miles  distant. 
A  party  of  three  or  four  men  immediately  went  out 
to  recover  the  body,  and  to  "hunt"  the  Indians. 
They  found  the  half-burned  remains  of  the  murdered 
man  ;  but  were  attacked  by  a  large  number  of 
Indians,  and  had  to  retire,  one  of  the  party  being 
wounded  by  an  Indian  arrow.  On  their  return  to 
Hangtown  there  was  great  excitement ;  about  thirty 
men,  mostly  from  the  Western  States,  turned  out 
with  their  long  rifles,  intending,  in  the  first  place,  to 
visit  the  camp  of  the  Middletown  tribe,  and  to  take 
from  them  their  rifles,  which  they  were  reported  to 


have  bought  from  the  storekeeper  there,  and  after 
that  to  lynch  the  storekeeper  himself  for  selling  arms 
to  the  Indians,  which  is  against  the  law ;  for  how- 
ever friendly  the  Indians  may  be,  they  trade  them  off 
to  hostile  tribes. 

It  happened,  however,  that  on  this  particular  day 
a  neighbouring  tribe  had  come  over  to  the  camp  of 
the  Middletown  Indians  for  the  purpose  of  having  a 
fandango  together  ;  and  when  they  saw  this  armed 
party  coming  upon  them,  they  immediately  saluted 
them  with  a  shower  of  arrows  and  rifle-balls,  which 
damaged  a  good  many  hats  and  shirts,  without 
wounding  any  one.  The  miners  returned  their  fire, 
killing  a  few  of  the  Indians ;  but  their  party  being  too 
small  to  fight  against  such  odds,  they  were  compelled 
to  retreat ;  and  as  the  storekeeper,  having  got  a  hint 
of  their  kind  intentions  towards  him,  had  made  him- 
self scarce,  they  marched  back  to  Hangtown  with- 
out having  done  much  to  boast  of. 

When  the  result  of  their  expedition  was  made 
known,  the  excitement  in  Hangtown  was  of  course 
greater  than  ever.  The  next  day  crowds  of  miners 
flocked  in  from  all  quarters,  each  man  equipped  with 
a  long  rifle  in  addition  to  his  bowie-knife  and  revolver, 
while  two  men,  playing  a  drum  and  a  fife,  marched  up 
and  down  the  street  to  give  a  military  air  to  the 
occasion.  A  public  meeting  was  held  in  one  of  the 
gambling  rooms,  at  which  the  governor,  the  sheriff  of 
the  county,  and  other  big  men  of  the  place,  were  pre- 
sent. The  miners  about  Hangtown  were  mostly  all 


Americans,  and  a  large  proportion  of  them  were  men 
from  the  Western  States,  who  had  come  by  the  over- 
land route  across  the  plains  —  men  who  had  all  their 
lives  been  used  to  Indian  wiles  and  treachery,  and 
thought  about  as  much  of  shooting  an  Indian  as  of 
killing  a  rattlesnake.  They  were  a  rough-looking 
crowd  ;  long,  gaunt,  wiry  men,  dressed  in  the  usual 
old-flannel-shirt  costume  of  the  mines,  with  shaggy 
beards,  their  faces,  hands,  and  arms,  as  brown  as 
mahogany,  and  with  an  expression  about  their  eyes 
which  boded  no  good  to  any  Indian  who  should 
come  within  range  of  their  rifles. 

There  were  some  very  good  speeches  made  at  the 
meeting  ;  that  of  a  young  Kentuckian  doctor  was 
quite  a  treat.  He  spoke  very  well,  but  from  the 
fuss  he  made  it  might  have  been  supposed  that  the 
whole  country  was  in  the  hands  of  the  enemy.  The 
eyes  of  the  thirty  States  of  the  Union,  he  said,  were 
upon  them  ;  and  it  was  for  them,  the  thirty-first,  to 
avenge  this  insult  to  the  Anglo-Saxon  race,  and  to 
show  the  wily  savage  that  the  American  nation, 
which  could  dictate  terms  of  peace  or  war  to  every 
other  nation  on  the  face  of  the  globe,  was  not  to 
be  trifled  with.  He  tried  to  rouse  their  courage, 
and  excite  their  animosity  against  the  Indians, 
though  it  was  quite  unnecessary,  by  drawing  a 
vivid  picture  of  the  unburied  bones  of  poor  Brown, 
or  Jones,  the  unfortunate  individual  who  had  been 
murdered,  bleaching  the  mountains  of  the  Sierra 
Nevada,  while  his  death  was  still  unavenged.  If 


they  were  cowardly  enough  not  to  go  out  and  whip 
the  savage  Indians,  their  wives  would  spurn  them, 
their  sweethearts  would  reject  them,  and  the  whole 
world  would  look  upon  them  with  scorn.  The  most 
common-sense  argument  in  his  speech,  however,  was, 
that  unless  the  Indians  were  taught  a  lesson,  there 
would  be  no  safety  for  the  straggling  miners  in  the 
mountains  at  any  distance  from  a  settlement.  Al- 
together he  spoke  very  well,  considering  the  sort  of 
crowd  he  was  addressing ;  and  judging  from  the 
enthusiastic  applause,  and  from  the  remarks  I  heard 
made  by  the  men  around  me,  he  could  not  have 
spoken  with  better  effect. 

The  Governor  also  made  a  short  speech,  saying  that 
he  would  take  the  responsibility  of  raising  a  company 
of  one  hundred  men,  at  five  dollars  a-day,  to  go  and 
whip  the  Indians. 

The  Sheriff  followed.  He  "collated"  to  raise  out 
of  that  crowd  one  hundred  men,  but  wanted  no  man 
to  put  down  his  name  who  would  not  stand  up  in  his 
boots,  and  he  would  ask  no  man  to  go  any  further 
than  he  would  go  himself. 

Those  who  wished  to  enlist  were  then  told  to  come 
round  to  the  other  end  of  the  room,  when  nearly  the 
whole  crowd  rushed  eagerly  forward,  and  the  required 
number  were  at  once  enrolled.  They  started  the 
next  day,  but  the  Indians  retreating  before  them, 
they  followed  them  far  up  into  the  mountains, 
where  they  remained  for  a  couple  of  months,  by 
which  time  the  wily  savages,  it  is  to  be  hoped,  got 

136  COON    HOLLOW. 

properly  whipped,  and  were  taught  the  respect  due  to 
white  men. 

We  continued  working  our  claim  at  Middletown, 
having  taken  into  partnership  an  old  sea-captain 
whom  we  found  there  working  alone.  It  paid  us 
very  well  for  about  three  weeks,  when,  from  the  con- 
tinued dry  weather,  the  water  began  to  fail,  and  we 
were  obliged  to  think  of  moving  off  to  other  dig- 

It  was  now  time  to  commence  preparatory  opera- 
tions before  working  the  beds  of  the  creeks  and  rivers, 
as  their  waters  were  falling  rapidly  ;  and  as  most  of 
our  party  owned  shares  in  claims  on  different  rivers, 
we  became  dispersed.  A  young  Englishman  and  my- 
self alone  remained,  uncertain  as  yet  where  we  should 

We  had  gone  into  Hangtown  one  night  for  provi- 
sions, when  we  heard  that  a  great  strike  had  been  made 
at  a  place  called  Coon  Hollow,  about  a  mile  distant. 
One  man  was  reported  to  have  taken  out  that  day 
about  fifteen  hundred  dollars.  Before  daylight  next 
morning  we  started  over  the  hill,  intending  to  stake 
off  a  claim  on  the  same  ground  ;  but  even  by  the  time 
we  got  there,  the  whole  hillside  was  already  pegged 
off  into  claims  of  thirty  feet  square,  on  each  of  which 
men  were  commencing  to  sink  shafts,  while  hundreds 
of  others  were  prowling  about,  too  late  to  get  a  claim 
which  would  be  thought  worth  taking  up. 

Those  who  had  claims,  immediately  surrounding 
that  of  the  lucky  man  who  had  caused  all  the  excite- 


ment  by  letting  his  good  fortune  be  known,  were  very 
sanguine.  Two  Cornish  miners  had  got  what  was 
supposed  to  be  the  most  likely  claim,  and  declared 
they  would  not  take  ten  thousand  dollars  for  it.  Of 
course,  no  one  thought  of  offering  such  a  sum ;  but 
so  great  was  the  excitement  that  they  might  have 
got  eight  hundred  or  a  thousand  dollars  for  their 
claim  before  ever  they  put  a  pick  in  the  ground. 
As  it  turned  out,  however,  they  spent  a  month  in 
sinking  a  shaft  about  a  hundred  feet  deep  ;  and  after 
drifting  all  round,  they  could  not  get  a  cent  out  of 
it,  while  many  of  the  claims  adjacent  to  theirs  proved 
extremely  rich. 

Such  diggings  as  these  are  called  "  coyote"  dig- 
gings, receiving  their  name  from  an  animal  called  the 
"  coyote,"  which  abounds  all  over  the  plain  lands 
of  Mexico  and  California,  and  which  lives  in  the 
cracks  and  crevices  made  in  the  plains  by  the  ex- 
treme heat  of  summer.  He  is  half  dog,  half  fox, 
and,  as  an  Irishman  might  say,  half  wolf  also.  They 
howl  most  dismally,  just  like  a  dog,  on  moonlight 
nights,  and  are  seen  in  great  numbers  skulking  about 
the  plains. 

Connected  with  them  is  a  curious  fact  in  natural 
history.  They  are  intensely  carnivorous — so  are 
cannibals ;  but  as  cannibals  object  to  the  flavour 
of  roasted  sailor  as  being  too  salt,  so  coyotes  turn 
up  their  noses  at  dead  Mexicans  as  being  too  pep- 
pery. I  have  heard  the  fact  mentioned  over  and 
over  again,  by  Americans  who  had  been  in  the  Mexi- 


can  war,  that  on  going  over  the  field  after  their 
battles,  they  found  their  own  comrades  with  the 
flesh  eaten  off  their  bones  by  the  coyotes,  while 
never  a  Mexican  corpse  had  been  touched  ;  and  the 
only  and  most  natural  way  to  account  for  this  pheno- 
menon was  in  the  fact  that  the  Mexicans,  by  the  con- 
stant and  inordinate  eating  of  the  hot  pepper-pod,  the 
Chili  Colorado,  had  so  impregnated  their  system  with 
pepper  as  to  render  their  flesh  too  savoury  a  morsel 
for  the  natural  and  unvitiated  taste  of  the  coyotes. 

These  coyote  diggings  require  to  be  very  rich  to 
pay,  from  the  great  amount  of  labour  necessary  before 
any  pay-dirt  can  be  obtained.  They  are  generally 
worked  by  only  two  men.  A  shaft  is  sunk,  over 
which  is  rigged  a  rude  windlass,  tended  by  one  man, 
who  draws  up  the  dirt  in  a  large  bucket  while  his 
partner  is  digging  down  below.  When  the  bed  rock 
is  reached  on  which  the  rich  dirt  is  found,  excava- 
tions are  made  all  round,  leaving  only  the  necessary 
supporting  pillars  of  earth,  which  are  also  ultimately 
removed,  and  replaced  by  logs  of  wood.  Accidents 
frequently  occur  from  the  "  caving-in  "  of  these  dig- 
gings, the  result  generally  of  the  carelessness  of  the 
men  themselves. 

The  Cornish  miners,  of  whom  numbers  had  come 
to  California  from  the  mines  of  Mexico  and  South 
America,  generally  devoted  themselves  to  these  deep 
diggings,  as  did  also  the  lead -miners  from  Wis- 
consin. Such  men  were  quite  at  home  a  hundred 
feet  or  so  under  ground,  picking  through  hard  rock 

SCENERY    IN   THE   MINES.  139 

by  candlelight ;  at  the  same  time,  gold  mining  in 
any  way  was  to  almost  every  one  a  new  occupa- 
tion, and  men  who  had  passed  their  lives  hitherto 
above  ground,  took  quite  as  naturally  to  this  sub- 
terranean style  of  digging  as  to  any  other. 

We  felt  no  particular  fancy  for  it,  however,  espe- 
cially as  we  could  not  get  a  claim  ;  and  having  heard 
favourable  accounts  of  the  diggings  on  Weaver  Creek, 
we  concluded  to  migrate  to  that  place.  It  was  about 
fifteen  miles  off ;  and  having  hired  a  mule  and  cart 
from  a  man  in  Hangtown  to  carry  our  long  torn, 
hoses,  picks,  shovels,  blankets,  and  pot  and  pans,  we 
started  early  the  next  morning,  and  arrived  at  our 
destination  about  noon.  We  passed  through  some 
beautiful  scenery  on  the  way.  The  ground  was  not 
yet  parched  and  scorched  by  the  summer  sun,  but  was 
still  green,  and  on  the  hillsides  were  patches  of  wild- 
ilowers  growing  so  thick  that  they  were  quite  soft 
and  delightful  to  lie  down  upon.  For  some  distance 
we  followed  a  winding  road  between  smooth  rounded 
hills,  thickly  wooded  with  immense  pines  and  cedars, 
gradually  ascending  till  we  came  upon  a  comparatively 
level  country,  which  had  all  the  beauty  of  an  English 
park.  The  ground  was  quite  smooth,  though  gently 
undulating,  and  the  rich  verdure  was  diversified  with 
numbers  of  white,  yellow,  and  purple  flowers.  The 
oaks  of  various  kinds,  which  were  here  the  only  tree, 
were  of  an  immense  size,  but  not  so  numerous  as 
to  confine  the  view ;  and  the  only  underwood  was 
the  mansanita,  a  very  beautiful  and  graceful  shrub, 

140  WEAVER    CREEK. 

generally  growing  in  single  plants  to  the  height  of 
six  or  eight  feet.  There  was  no  appearance  of  rug- 
gedness  or  disorder  ;  we  might  have  imagined  our- 
selves in  a  well-kept  domain  ;  and  the  solitude,  and 
the  vast  unemployed  wealth  of  nature,  alone  re- 
minded us  that  we  were  among  the  wild  mountains 
of  California. 

After  travelling  some  miles  over  this  sort  of  country, 
we  got  among  the  pine  trees  once  more,  and  very 
soon  came  to  the  brink  of  the  high  mountains  over- 
hanging Weaver  Creek.  The  descent  was  so  steep  that 
we  had  the  greatest  difficulty  in  getting  the  cart  down 
without  a  capsize,  having  to  make  short  tacks  down 
the  face  of  the  hill,  and  generally  steering  for  a  tree 
to  bring  up  upon  in  case  of  accidents.  At  the  point 
where  we  reached  the  Creek  was  a  store,  and  scattered 
along  the  rocky  banks  of  the  Creek  were  a  few  miners7 
tents  and  cabins.  We  had  expected  to  have  to  camp 
out  here,  but  seeing  a  small  tent  unoccupied  near  the 
store,  we  made  inquiry  of  the  storekeeper,  and  finding 
that  it  belonged  to  him,  and  that  he  had  no  objection 
to  our  using  it,  we  took  possession  accordingly,  and 
proceeded  to  light  a  fire  and  cook  our  dinner. 

Not  knowing  how  far  we  might  be  from  a  store, 
we  had  brought  along  with  us  a  supply  of  flour,  ham, 
beans,  and  tea,  with  which  we  were  quite  independent. 
After  prospecting  a  little,  we  soon  found  a  spot  on 
the  bank  of  the  stream  which  we  judged  would  yield 
us  pretty  fair  pay  for  our  labour.  We  had  some 
difficulty  at  first  in  bringing  water  to  the  long  torn, 


having  to  lead  our  hose  a  considerable  distance  up 
the  stream  to  obtain  sufficient  elevation  ;  but  we  soon 
got  everything  in  working  order,  and  pitched  in. 
The  gold  which  we  found  here  was  of  the  finest  kind, 
and  required  great  care  in  washing.  It  was  in 
exce  edingly  small  thin  scales  —  so  thin,  that  in  washing 
out  in  a  pan  at  the  end  of  the  day,  a  scale  of  gold 
would  occasionally  float  for  an  instant  on  the  surface 
of  the  water.  This  is  the  most  valuable  kind  of  gold 
dust,  and  is  worth  one  or  two  dollars  an  ounce  more 
than  the  coarse  chunky  dust. 

It  was  a  wild  rocky  place  where  we  were  now 
located.  The  steep  mountains,  rising  abruptly  all 
round  us,  so  confined  the  view  that  we  seemed  to 
be  shut  out  from  the  rest  of  the  world.  The  nearest 
village  or  settlement  was  about  ten  miles  distant; 
and  all  the  miners  on  the  Creek  within  four  or  five 
miles  living  in  isolated  cabins,  tents,  and  brush- 
houses,  or  camping  out  on  the  rocks,  resorted  for  pro- 
visions to  the  small  store  already  mentioned,  which 
was  supplied  with  a  general  assortment  of  provisions 
and  clothing. 

There  had  still  been  occasional  heavy  rains,  from 
which  our  tent  was  but  poor  protection,  and  we 
awoke  sometimes  in  the  morning,  finding  small  pools 
of  water  in  the  folds  of  our  blankets,  and  everything 
so  soaking  wet,  inside  the  tent  as  well  as  outside, 
that  it  was  hopeless  to  attempt  to  light  a  fire.  On 
such  occasions,  raw  ham,  hard  bread,  and  cold  water 
was  all  the  breakfast  we  could  raise  ;  eking  it  out, 

142  HOT    WEATHER. 

however,  with  an  extra  pipe,  and  relieving  our  feel- 
ings by  laying  in  fiercely  with  pick  and  shovel. 

The  weather  very  soon,  however,  became  quite 
settled.  The  sky  was  always  bright  and  cloudless  ; 
all  verdure  was  fast  disappearing  from  the  hills,  and 
they  began  to  look  brown  and  scorched.  The  heat 
in  the  mines  during  summer  is  greater  than  in  most 
tropical  countries.  I  have  in  some  parts  seen  the 
thermometer  as  high  as  120°  in  the  shade  during  the 
greater  part  of  the  day  for  three  weeks  at  a  time  ; 
but  the  climate  is  not  by  any  means  so  relaxing  and 
oppressive  as  in  countries  where,  though  the  range 
of  the  thermometer  is  much  lower,  the  damp  suffo- 
cating atmosphere  makes  the  heat  more  severely  felt. 
In  the  hottest  weather  in  California,  it  is  always 
agreeably  cool  at  night — sufficiently  so  to  make  a 
blanket  acceptable,  and  to  enable  one  to  enjoy  a 
sound  sleep,  in  which  one  recovers  from  all  the  evil 
effects  of  the  previous  day's  baking  ;  and  even  the 
extreme  heat  of  the  hottest  hours  of  the  day,  though 
it  crisps  up  one's  hair  like  that  of  a  nigger's,  is  still 
light  and  exhilarating,  and  by  no  means  disinclines 
one  for  bodily  exertion. 

We  continued  to  work  the  claim  we  had  first 
taken  for  two  or  three  weeks  with  very  good  success, 
when  the  diggings  gave  out — that  is  to  say,  they 
ceased  to  yield  sufficiently  to  suit  our  ideas  :  so  we 
took  up  another  claim  about  a  mile  further  up  the 
creek  ;  and  as  this  was  rather  an  inconvenient  distance 
from  our  tent,  we  abandoned  it,  and  took  possession 


of  a  log  cabin  near  our  claim  which  some  men  had 
just  vacated.  It  was  a  very  badly  -  built  cabin, 
perched  on  a  rocky  platform  overhanging  the  rugged 
pathway  which  led  along  the  banks  of  the  creek. 

A  cabin  with  a  good  shingle-roof  is  generally  the 
coolest  kind  of  abode  in  summer  ;  but  ours  was 
only  roofed  with  cotton  cloth,  offering  scarcely  any 
resistance  to  the  fierce  rays  of  the  sun,  which 
rendered  the  cabin  during  the  day  so  intolerably 
hot,  that  we  cooked  and  eat  our  dinner  under  the 
shade  of  a  tree. 

A  whole  bevy  of  Chinamen  had  recently  made 
their  appearance  on  the  creek.  Their  camp,  consist- 
ing of  a  dozen  or  so  of  small  tents  and  brush- 
houses,  was  near  our  cabin  on  the  side  of  the  hill — 
too  near  to  be  pleasant,  for  they  kept  up  a  continual 
chattering  all  night,  which  was  rather  tiresome  till 
we  got  used  to  it. 

They  are  an  industrious  set  of  people,  no  doubt, 
but  are  certainly  not  calculated  for  gold-digging. 
They  do  not  work  with  the  same  force  or  vigour  as 
American  or  European  miners,  but  handle  their  tools 
like  so  many  women,  as  if  they  were  afraid  of  hurt- 
ing themselves.  The  Americans  called  it  "  scratch- 
ing," which  was  a  very  expressive  term  for  their 
style  of  digging.  They  did  not  venture  to  assert 
equal  rights  so  far  as  to  take  up  any  claim  which 
other  miners  would  think  it  worth  while  to  work  ; 
but  in  such  places  as  yielded  them  a  dollar  or  two 
a-  day  they  were  allowed  to  scratch  away  unmolested. 

144  A    CELESTIAL    "MUSS." 

Had  they  happened  to  strike  a  rich  lead,  they  would 
have  been  driven  off  their  claim  immediately.  They 
were  very  averse  to  working  in  the  water,  and  for 
four  or  five  hours  in  the  heat  of  the  day  they 
assembled  under  the  shade  of  a  tree,  where  they  sat 
fanning  themselves,  drinking  tea,  and  saying  "  too 
muchee  hot/' 

On  the  whole,  they  seemed  a  harmless,  inoffensive 
people  ;  but  one  day,  as  we  were  going  to  dinner,  we 
heard  an  unusual  hullaballoo  going  on  where  the 
Chinamen  were  at  work ;  and  on  reaching  the  place 
we  found  the  whole  tribe  of  Celestials  divided  into 
two  equal  parties,  drawn  up  against  each  other  in 
battle  array,  brandishing  picks  and  shovels,  lifting 
stones  as  if  to  hurl  them  at  their  adversaries'  heads, 
and  every  man  chattering  and  gesticulating  in  the 
most  frantic  manner.  The  miners  collected  on  the 
ground  to  see  the  "  muss,"  and  cheered  the  Chinamen 
on  to  more  active  hostilities.  But  after  taunting 
and  threatening  each  other  in  this  way  for  about  an 
hour,  during  which  time,  although  the  excitement 
seemed  to  be  continually  increasing,  not  a  blow  was 
struck  nor  a  stone  thrown,  the  two  parties  suddenly, 
and  without  any  apparent  cause,  fraternised,  and 
moved  off  together  to  their  tents.  What  all  the  row 
was  about,  or  why  peace  was  so  suddenly  proclaimed, 
was  of  course  a  mystery  to  us  outside  barbarians ; 
and  the  tame  and  unsatisfactory  termination  of  such 
warlike  demonstrations  was  a  great  disappointment, 
as  we  had  been  every  moment  expecting  that  the 


ball  would  open,  and  hoped  to  see  a  general  engage- 

It  reminded  me  of  the  way  in  which  a  couple  of 
French  Canadians  have  a  set-to.  Shaking  their  fists 
within  an  inch  of  each  other's  faces,  they  call  each 
other  all  the  names  imaginable,  beginning  with  sacre 
cochon,  and  going  through  a  long  series  of  still  less 
complimentary  epithets,  till  finally  sacre  astrologe 
caps  the  climax.  This  is  a  regular  smasher ;  it  is 
supposed  to  be  such  a  comprehensive  term  as  to 
exhaust  the  whole  vocabulary ;  both  parties  then 
give  in  for  want  of  ammunition,  and  the  fight  is 
over.  I  presume  it  was  by  a  similar  process  that 
the  Chinamen  arrived  at  a  solution  of  their  difficulty ; 
at  all  events,  discretion  seemed  to  form  a  very  large 
component  part  of  Celestial  valour. 




THE  miners  on  the  creek  were  nearly  all  Americans, 
and  exhibited  a  great  variety  of  mankind.  Some,  it 
was  very  evident,  were  men  who  had  hitherto  only 
worked  with  their  heads  ;  others  one  would  have 
set  down  as  having  been  mechanics  of  some  sort, 
and  as  having  lived  in  cities ;  and  there  were  num- 
bers of  unmistakeable  backwoodsmen  and  farmers 
from  the  Western  States.  Of  these  a  large  proportion 
were  Missourians,  who  had  emigrated  across  the 
plains.  From  the  State  of  Missouri  the  people  had 
flocked  in  thousands  to  the  gold  diggings,  and  par- 
ticularly from  a  county  in  that  state  called  Pike 

The  peculiarities  of  the  Missourians  are  very 
strongly  marked,  and  after  being  in  the  mines  but 
a  short  time,  one  could  distinguish  a  Missourian,  or 

A   "  PIKE   COUNTY/'  1  47 

a  "  Pike,"  or  "  Pike  County/'  as  they  are  called,  from 
the  natives  of  any  other  western  State.  Their 
costume  was  always  exceedingly  old  and  greasy- 
looking ;  they  had  none  of  the  occasional  foppery 
of  the  miner,  which  shows  itself  in  brilliant  red 
shirts,  boots  with  flaming  red  tops,  fancy -coloured 
hats,  silver-handled  bowie-knives,  and  rich  silk  sashes. 
It  always  seemed  to  me  that  a  Missourian  wore 
the  same  clothes  in  which  he  had  crossed  the  plains, 
and  that  he  was  keeping  them  to  wear  on  his 
journey  home  again.  Their  hats  were  felt,  of  a  dirty- 
brown  colour,  and  the  shape  of  a  short  extinguisher. 
Their  shirts  had  perhaps,  in  days  gone  by,  been  red, 
but  were  now  a  sort  of  purple ;  their  pantaloons 
were  generally  of  a  snuffy-brown  colour,  and  made 
of  some  woolly  home-made  fabric.  Suspended  at 
their  back  from  a  narrow  strap  buckled  round  the 
waist  they  carried  a  wooden-handled  bowie-knife  in 
an  old  leathern  sheath,  not  stitched,  but  riveted  with 
leaden  nails ;  and  over  their  shoulders  they  wore 
strips  of  cotton  or  cloth  as  suspenders — mechanical 
contrivances  never  thought  of  by  any  other  men 
in  the  mines.  As  for  their  boots,  there  was  no 
peculiarity  about  them,  excepting  that  they  were 
always  old.  Their  coats,  a  garment  not  frequently 
seen  in  the  mines  for  at  least  six  months  of  the 
year,  were  very  extraordinary  things — exceedingly 
tight,  short-waisted,  long-skirted  surtouts  of  home- 
made frieze  of  a  greyish-blue  colour. 

As  for    their    persons,   they   were    mostly   long, 


gaunt,  narrow-chested,  round-shouldered  men,  with 
long,  straight,  light-coloured,  dried-up-looking  hair, 
small  thin  sallow  faces,  with  rather  scanty  beard 
and  moustache,  and  small  grey  sunken  eyes,  which 
seemed  to  be  keenly  perceptive  of  everything  around 
them.  But  in  their  movements  the  men  were  slow 
and  awkward,  and  in  the  towns  especially  they 
betrayed  a  childish  astonishment  at  the  strange 
sights  occasioned  by  the  presence  of  the  divers 
nations  of  the  earth.  The  fact  is,  that  till  they  came 
to  California  many  of  them  had  never  in  their  lives 
before  seen  two  houses  together,  and  in  any  little 
village  in  the  mines  they  witnessed  more  of  the 
wonders  of  civilisation  than  ever  they  had  dreamed 

In  some  respects,  perhaps,  the  mines  of  California 
were  as  wild  a  place  as  any  part  of  the  Western 
States  of  America  ;  but  they  were  peopled  by  a 
community  of  men  of  all  classes,  and  from  different 
countries,  who,  though  living  in  a  rough  backwoods 
style,  had  nevertheless  all  the  ideas  and  amenities 
of  civilised  life ;  while  the  Missourians,  having  come 
direct  across  the  plains  from  their  homes  in  the 
backwoods,  had  received  no  preparatory  education 
to  enable  them  to  show  off  to  advantage  in  such 

And  in  this  they  laboured  under  a  great  disad- 
vantage, as  compared  with  the  lower  classes  of 
people  of  every  country  who  came  to  San  Francisco 
by  way  of  Panama  or  Cape  Horn.  The  men  from 


the  interior  of  the  States  learned  something  even  on 
their  journey  to  New  York  or  New  Orleans,  having 
their  eyes  partially  opened  during  the  few  days  they 
spent  in  either  of  those  cities  en  route ;  and  on  the 
passage  to  San  Francisco  they  naturally  received  a 
certain  degree  of  polish  from  being  violently  shaken 
up  with  a  crowd  of  men  of  different  habits  and  ideas 
from  their  own.  They  had  to  give  way  in  many 
things  to  men  whose  motives  of  action  were  perhaps 
to  them  incomprehensible,  while  of  course  they 
gained  a  few  new  ideas  from  being  brought  into  close 
contact  with  such  sorts  of  men  as  they  had  hitherto 
only  seen  at  a  distance,  or  very  likely  had  never 
heard  of.  A  little  experience  of  San  Francisco  did 
them  no  harm,  and  by  the  time  they  reached  the 
mines  they  had  become  very  superior  men  to  the 
raw  bumpkins  they  were  before  leaving  their  homes. 

It  may  seem  strange,  but  it  is  undoubtedly  true, 
that  the  majority  of  men  in  whom  such  a  change 
was  most  desirable  became  in  California  more  hu- 
manised, and  acquired  a  certain  amount  of  urbanity  ; 
in  fact,  they  came  from  civilised  countries  in  the 
rough  state,  and  in  California  got  licked  into  shape, 
and  polished. 

I  had  subsequently,  while  residing  on  the  Isthmus 
of  Nicaragua,  constant  opportunities  of  witnessing 
the  truth  of  this,  in  contrasting  the  outward-bound 
emigrants  with  the  same  class  of  men  returning  to 
the  States  after  having  received  a  California  educa- 
tion. Every  fortnight  two  crowds  of  passengers 


rushed  across  the  Isthmus,  one  from  New  York,  the 
other  from  San  Francisco.  The  great  majority  in 
both  cases  were  men  of  the  lower  ranks  of  life,  and 
it  is  of  course  to  them  alone  that  my  remarks  apply. 
Those  coming  from  New  York — who  were  mostly 
Americans  and  Irish  —  seemed  to  think  that  each 
man  could  do  just  as  he  pleased,  without  regard  to 
the  comfort  of  his  neighbours.  They  showed  no 
accommodating  spirit,  but  grumbled  at  everything, 
and  were  rude  and  surly  in  their  manners  ;  they 
were  very  raw  and  stupid,  and  had  no  genius  for 
doing  anything  for  themselves  or  each  other  to  assist 
their  progress,  but  perversely  delighted  in  acting  in 
opposition  to  the  regulations  and  arrangements  made 
for  them  by  the  Transit  Company.  The  same  men, 
however,  on  their  return  from  California,  were  per- 
fect gentlemen  in  comparison.  They  were  orderly 
in  their  behaviour  ;  though  rough,  they  were  not 
rude,  and  showed  great  consideration  for  others, 
submitting  cheerfully  to  any  personal  inconvenience 
necessary  for  the  common  good,  and  showing  by 
their  conduct  that  they  had  acquired  some  notion  of 
their  duties  to  balance  the  very  enlarged  idea  of 
their  rights  which  they  had  formerly  entertained. 

The  Missourians,  however,  although  they  acquired 
no  new  accomplishments  on  their  journey  to  Cali- 
fornia, lost  none  of  those  which  they  originally  pos- 
sessed. They  could  use  an  axe  or  a  rifle  with  any 
man.  Two  of  them  would  chop  down  a  few  trees 
and  build  a  log-cabin  in  a  day  and  a  half,  and  with 


their  long  five-foot-barrel-rifle,  which  was  their  con- 
stant companion,  they  could  "draw  a  bead"  on  a 
deer,  a  squirrel,  or  the  white  of  an  Indian's  eye, 
with  equal  coolness  and  certainty  of  killing. 

Though  large-framed  men,  they  were  not  remark- 
able for  physical  strength,  nor  were  they  robust  in 
constitution ;  in  fact,  they  were  the  most  sickly  set 
of  men  in  the  mines,  fever  and  ague  and  diarrhoea 
being  their  favourite  complaints. 

We  had  many  pleasant  neighbours,  and  among 
them  were  some  very  amusing  characters.  One  man, 
who  went  by  the  name  of  the  "  Philosopher,"  might 
possibly  have  earned  a  better  right  to  the  name,  if  he 
had  had  the  resolution  to  abstain  from  whisky.  He 
had  been,  I  believe,  a  farmer  in  Kentucky,  and  was 
one  of  a  class  not  uncommon  in  America,  who,  with- 
out much  education,  but  with  great  ability  and  im- 
mense command  of  language,  together  with  a  very 
superficial  knowledge  of  some  science,  hold  forth  on 
it  most  fluently,  using  such  long  words,  and  putting 
them  so  well  together,  that,  were  it  not  for  the 
crooked  ideas  they  enunciated,  one  might  almost  sup- 
pose they  knew  what  they  were  talking  about. 

Phrenology  was  this  man's  hobby,  and  he  had  all 
the  phrenological  phraseology  at  his  finger-ends.  His 
great  delight  was  to  paw  a  man's  head  and  to  tell 
him  his  character.  One  Sunday  morning  he  came 
into  our  cabin  as  he  was  going  down  to  the  store  for 
provisions,  and  after  a  few  minutes'  conversation,  of 
course  he  introduced  phrenology ;  and  as  I  knew  I 

152  A   VISITOR. 

should  not  get  rid  of  him  till  I  did  so,  I  gave  him  my 
permission  to  feel  my  head.  He  fingered  it  all  over, 
and  gave  me  a  very  elaborate  synopsis  of  my  char- 
acter, explaining  most  minutely  the  consequences  of 
the  combination  of  the  different  bumps,  and  telling 
me  how  I  would  act  in  a  variety  of  supposed  contin- 
gencies. Having  satisfied  himself  as  to  my  character, 
he  went  off,  and  I  was  in  hopes  I  was  done  with  him, 
but  an  hour  or  so  after  dark,  he  came  rolling  into  the 
cabin  just  as  I  was  going  to  turn  in.  He  was  as 
drunk  as  he  well  could  be ;  his  nose  was  swelled  and 
bloody,  his  eyes  were  both  well  blackened,  and  alto- 
gether he  was  very  unlike  a  learned  professor  of 
phrenology.  He  begged  to  be  allowed  to  stay  all 
night ;  and  as  he  would  most  likely  have  broken  his 
neck  over  the  rocks  if  he  had  tried  to  reach  his  own 
home  that  night,  I  made  him  welcome,  thinking  that 
he  would  immediately  fall  asleep  without  troubling 
me  further.  But  I  was  very  much  mistaken  ;  he  had 
no  sooner  laid  down,  than  he  began  to  harangue  me 
as  if  I  were  a  public  meeting  or  a  debating  society, 
addressing  me  as  "  gentlemen,"  and  expatiating  on  a 
variety  of  topics,  but  chiefly  on  phrenology,  the  Demo- 
cratic ticket,  and  the  great  mass  of  the  people.  He 
had  a  bottle  of  brandy  with  him,  which  I  made  him 
finish  in  hopes  it  might  have  the  effect  of  silencing 
him  ;  but  there  was  unfortunately  not  enough  of  it  for 
that — it  only  made  him  worse,  for  he  left  the  debating 
society  and  got  into  a  bar-room,  where,  when  I  went 
to  sleep,  he  was  playing  "  poker"  with  some  imagin- 
ary individual  whom  he  called  Jim. 


In  the  morning  he  made  most  ample  apologies, 
and  was  very  earnest  in  expressing  his  gratitude  for 
my  hospitality.  I  took  the  liberty  of  asking  him 
what  bumps  he  called  those  in  the  neighbourhood  of 
his  eyes.  "  Well,  sir,"  he  said,  "  you  ask  me  a  plain 
question,  I'll  give  you  a  plain  answer.  I  got  into  a 
'muss'  down  at  the  store  last  night,  and  was  whip- 
ped ;  and  I  deserved  it  too."  As  he  was  so  penitent, 
I  did  not  press  him  for  further  particulars ;  but  I 
heard  from  another  man  the  same  day,  that  when  at 
the  store  he  had  taken  the  opportunity  of  an  audience 
to  lecture  them  on  his  favourite  subject,  and  illus- 
trated his  theory  by  feeling  several  heads,  and  giving 
very  full  descriptions  of  the  characters  of  the  indi- 
viduals. At  last  he  got  hold  of  a  man  who  must 
have  had  something  peculiar  in  the  formation  of  his 
cranium,  for  he  gave  him  a  most  dreadful  character, 
calling  him  a  liar,  a  cheat,  and  a  thief,  and  winding 
up  by  saying  that  he  was  a  man  who  would  murder 
his  father  for  five  dollars. 

The  natural  consequence  was,  that  the  owner  of 
this  enviable  character  jumped  up  and  pitched  into 
the  phrenologist,  giving  him  the  whipping  which  he 
had  so  candidly  acknowledged,  and  would  probably 
have  murdered  him  without  the  consideration  of  the 
five  dollars,  if  the  bystanders  had  not  interfered. 

Very  near  where  we  were  at  work,  a  party  of 
half-a-dozen  men  held  a  claim  in  the  bed  of  the 
creek,  and  had  as  usual  dug  a  race  through  which  to 
turn  the  water,  and  so  leave  exposed  the  part  they 
intended  to  work.  This  they  were  now  anxious  to 

154  A  JURY   TRIAL. 

do,  as  the  creek  had  fallen  sufficiently  low  to  admit 
of  it ;  but  they  were  opposed  by  a  number  of 
miners,  whose  claims  lay  so  near  the  race  that  they 
would  have  been  swamped  had  the  water  been  turned 
into  it. 

They  could  not  come  to  any  settlement  of  the 
question  among  themselves ;  so,  as  was  usual  in  such 
cases,  they  concluded  to  leave  it  to  a  jury  of  miners  ; 
and  notice  was  accordingly  sent  to  all  the  miners 
within  two  or  three  miles  up  and  down  the  creek, 
requesting  them  to  assemble  on  the  claim  in  question 
the  next  afternoon.  Although  a  miner  calculates  an 
hour  lost  as  so  much  money  out  of  his  pocket,  yet  all 
were  interested  in  supporting  the  laws  of  the  diggings  ; 
and  about  a  hundred  men  presented  themselves  at  the 
appointed  time.  The  two  opposing  parties  then, 
having  tossed  up  for  the  first  pick,  chose  six  jury- 
men each  from  the  assembled  crowd. 

When  the  jury  had  squatted  themselves  all  together 
in  an  exalted  position  on  a  heap  of  stones  and  dirt, 
one  of  the  plaintiffs,  as  spokesman  for  his  party, 
made  a  very  pithy  speech,  calling  several  witnesses  to 
prove  his  statements,  and  citing  many  of  the  laws  of 
the  diggings  in  support  of  his  claims.  The  defend- 
ants followed  in  the  same  manner,  making  the  most 
of  their  case ;  while  the  general  public,  sitting  in 
groups  on  the  different  heaps  of  stones  piled  up 
between  the  holes  with  which  the  ground  was 
honeycombed,  smoked  their  pipes  and  watched  the 


After  the  plaintiff  and  defendant  had  said  all  they 
had  to  say  about  it,  the  jury  examined  the  state  of 
the  ground  in  dispute ;  they  then  called  some  more 
witnesses  to  give  further  information,  and  having  laid 
their  shaggy  heads  together  for  a  few  minutes,  they 
pronounced  their  decision  ;  which  was,  that  the  men 
working  on  the  race  should  be  allowed  six  days  to 
work  out  their  claims  before  the  water  should  be 
turned  in  upon  them. 

Neither  party  were  particularly  well  pleased  with 
the  verdict — a  pretty  good  sign  that  it  was  an  im- 
partial one ;  but  they  had  to  abide  by  it,  for  had  there 
been  any  resistance  on  either  side,  the  rest  of  the 
miners  would  have  enforced  the  decision  of  this 
august  tribunal.  From  it  there  was  no  appeal ;  a  jury 
of  miners  was  the  highest  court  known,  and  I  must 
say  I  never  saw  a  court  of  justice  with  so  little  hum- 
bug about  it. 

The  laws  of  the  creek,  as  was  the  case  in  all  the 
various  diggings  in  the  mines,  were  made  at  meetings 
of  miners  held  for  the  purpose.  They  were  generally 
very  few  and  simple.  They  defined  how  many  feet 
of  ground  one  man  was  entitled  to  hold  in  a  ravine — 
how  much  in  the  bank,  and  in  the  bed  of  the  creek ; 
how  many  such  claims  he  could  hold  at  a  time  ;  and 
how  long  he  could  absent  himself  from  his  claim  with- 
out forfeiting  it.  They  declared  what  was  necessary 
to  be  done  in  taking  up  and  securing  a  claim  which, 
for  want  of  water,  or  from  any  other  cause,  could  not 
be  worked  at  the  time ;  and  they  also  provided  for 


various  contingencies  incidental  to  the  peculiar  nature 
of  the  diggings. 

Of  course,  like  other  laws  they  required  constant 
revision  and  amendment,  to  suit  the  progress  of  the 
times  ;  and  a  few  weeks  after  this  trial,  a  meeting  was 
held  one  Sunday  afternoon  for  legislative  purposes. 
The  miners  met  in  front  of  the  store  to  the  number 
of  about  two  hundred  ;  a  very  respectable-looking  old 
chap  was  called  to  the  chair ;  but  for  want  of  that 
article  of  furniture  he  mounted  an  empty  pork-barrel, 
which  gave  him  a  commanding  position  ;  another  man 
was  appointed  secretary,  who  placed  his  writing 
materials  on  some  empty  boxes  piled  up  alongside  of 
the  chair.  The  chairman  then,  addressing  the  crowd, 
told  them  the  object  for  which  the  meeting  had  been 
called,  and  said  he  would  be  happy  to  hear  any 
gentleman  who  had  any  remarks  to  offer ;  whereupon 
some  one  proposed  an  amendment  of  the  law  relating 
to  a  certain  description  of  claim,  arguing  the  point 
in  a  very  neat  speech.  He  was  duly  seconded,  and 
there  was  some  slight  opposition  and  discussion  ;  but 
when  the  chairman  declared  it  carried  by  the  ayes,  no 
one  called  for  a  division,  so  the  secretary  wrote  it  all 
down,  and  it  became  law. 

Two  or  three  other  acts  were  passed,  and  when 
the  business  was  concluded,  a  vote  of  thanks  to  the 
chairman  was  passed  for  his  able  conduct  on  the  top 
of  the  pork-barrel.  The  meeting  was  then  declared 
to  be  dissolved,  and  accordingly  dribbled  into  the 
store,  where  the  legislators,  in  small  detachments, 

BUYING   A   CLAIM.  157 

pledged  each  other  in  cocktails  as  fast  as  the  store- 
keeper could  mix  them.  While  the  legislature  was 
in  session, 'however,  everything  was  conducted  with 
the  utmost  formality,  for  Americans  of  all  classes 
are  particularly  au  fait  at  the  ordinary  routine  of 
public  meetings. 

After  working  our  claim  for  a  few  weeks,  my 
partner  left  me  to  go  to  another  part  of  the  mines, 
and  I  joined  two  Americans  in  buying  a  claim  five 
or  six  miles  up  the  creek.  It  was  supposed  to 
be  very  rich,  and  we  had  to  pay  a  long  price  for  it 
accordingly,  although  the  men  who  had  taken  it  up, 
and  from  whom  we  bought  it,  had  not  yet  even  pro- 
spected the  ground.  But  the  adjoining  claims  were 
being  worked,  and  yielding  largely,  and  from  the 
position  of  ours,  it  was  looked  on  as  an  equally  good 

There  was  a  great  deal  to  be  done,  before  it  could 
be  worked,  in  the  way  of  removing  rocks  and  turning 
the  water ;  and  as  three  of  us  were  not  sufficient  to 
work  the  place  properly,  we  hired  four  men  to  assist 
us,  at  the  usual  wages  of  five  dollars  a-day.  It  took 
about  a  fortnight  to  get  the  claim  into  order  before 
we  could  begin  washing,  but  we  then  found  that  our 
labour  had  not  been  expended  in  vain,  for  it  paid 
uncommonly  well. 

When  I  bought  this  claim,  I  had  to  give  up 
my  cabin,  as  the  distance  was  so  great,  and  I 
now  camped  with  my  partners  close  to  our  claim, 
where  we  had  erected  a  brush-house.  This  is  a  very 

158  A   BRUSH-HOUSE. 

comfortable  kind  of  abode  in  summer,  and  does 
iiot  cost  an  hour's  labour  to  erect.  Four  uprights 
are  stuck  in  the  ground,  and  connected  with  cross 
pieces,  on  which  are  laid  heaps  of  leafy  brushwood, 
making  a  roof  completely  impervious  to  the  rays  of 
the  sun.  Sometimes  three  sides  are  filled  in  with  a 
basketwork  of  brush,  which  gives  the  edifice  a  more 
compact  and  comfortable  appearance.  Very  frequently 
a  brush-shed  of  this  sort  was  erected  over  a  tent,  for  the 
thin  material  of  which  tents  were  usually  made,  offered 
but  poor  shelter  from  the  burning  sun. 

When  I  left  my  cabin,  I  handed  it  over  to  a  young 
man  who  had  arrived  very  lately  in  the  country,  and 
had  just  come  up  to  the  mines.  On  meeting  him  a 
few  days  afterwards,  and  asking  him  how  he  liked 
his  new  abode,  he  told  me  that  the  first  night  of  his 
occupation  he  had  not  slept  a  wink,  and  had  kept 
candles  burning  till  daylight,  being  afraid  to  go  to 
sleep  on  account  of  the  rats. 

Eats,  indeed !  poor  fellow !  I  should  think  there 
were  a  few  rats,  but  the  cabin  was  not  worse  in  that 
respect  than  any  other  in  the  mines.  The  rats  were 
most  active  colonisers.  Hardly  was  a  cabin  built  in 
the  most  out-of-the-way  part  of  the  mountains,  before 
a  large  family  of  rats  made  themselves  at  home  in  it, 
imparting  a  humanised  and  inhabited  air  to  the  place. 
They  are  not  supposed  to  be  indigenous  to  the  country. 
They  are  a  large  black  species,  which  I  believe  those 
who  are  learned  in  rats  call  the  Hamburg  breed. 
Occasionally  a  pure  white  one  is  seen,  but  more  fre- 

EATS.  159 

quently  in  the  cities  than  in  the  mines  ;  they  are 
probably  the  hoary  old  patriarchs,  and  not  a  distinct 

They  are  very  destructive,  and  are  such  notorious 
thieves,  carrying  off  letters,  newspapers,  handker- 
chiefs, and  things  of  that  sort,  with  which  to  make 
their  nests,  that  I  soon  acquired  a  habit,  which  is 
common  enough  in  the  mines,  of  always  ramming 
my  stockings  tightly  into  the  toes  of  my  boots, 
putting  my  neckerchief  into  my  pocket,  and  other- 
wise securing  all  such  matters  before  turning  in  at 
night.  One  took  these  precautions  just  as  naturally, 
and  as  much  as  a  matter  of  course,  as  when  at  sea 
one  fixes  things  in  such  a  manner  that  they  shall 
not  fetch  way  with  the  motion  of  the  ship.  As  in 
civilised  life  a  man  winds  up  his  watch  and  puts  it 
under  his  pillow  before  going  to  bed  ;  so  in  the  mines, 
when  turning  in,  one  just  as  instinctively  sets  to 
work  to  circumvent  the  rats  in  the  manner  described, 
and,  taking  off  his  revolver,  lays  it  under  his  pillow, 
or  at  least  under  the  coat  or  boots,  or  whatever  he 
rests  his  head  on. 

I  believe  there  are  individuals  who  faint  or  go  into 
hysterics  if  a  cat  happens  to  be  in  the  same  room  with 
them.  Any  one  having  a  like  antipathy  to  rats  had 
better  keep  as  far  away  from  California  as  possible, 
especially  from  the  mines.  The  inhabitants  generally, 
however,  have  no  such  prejudices  ;  it  is  a  free  coun- 
try— as  free  to  rats  as  to  Chinamen  ;  they  increase 
and  multiply  and  settle  on  the  land  very  much  as 


they  please,  eating  up  your  flour,  and  running  over 
you  when  you  are  asleep,  without  ceremony. 

No  one  thinks  it  worth  while  to  kill  individual 
rats — the  abstract  fact  of  their  existence  remains 
the  same  ;  you  might  as  well  wage  war  upon  mos- 
quitos.  I  often  shot  rats,  but  it  was  for  the  sport, 
not  for  the  mere  object  of  killing  them.  Eat- 
shooting  is  capital  sport,  and  is  carried  on  in  this 
wise  :  The  most  favourable  place  for  it  is  a  log-cabin 
in  which  the  chinks  have  not  been  filled  up,  so  that 
there  is  a  space  of  two  of  three  inches  between  the 
logs ;  and  the  season  is  a  moonlight  night.  Then 
when  you  lie  down  for  the  night  (it  would  be 
absurd  to  call  it  "going  to  bed"  in  the  mines), 
you  have  your  revolver  charged,  and  plenty  of 
ammunition  at  hand.  The  lights  are  of  course  put 
out,  and  the  cabin  is  in  darkness  ;  but  the  rats  have 
a  fashion  of  running  along  the  tops  of  the  logs,  and 
occasionally  standing  still,  showing  clearly  against 
the  moonlight  outside ;  then  is  your  time  to  draw  a 
bead  upon  them  and  knock  them  over — if  you  can. 
But  it  takes  a  good  shot  to  do  much  at  this  sort  of 
work,  and  a  man  who  kills  two  or  three  brace  be- 
fore going  to  sleep  has  had  a  very  splendid  night's 



WE  worked  our  claim  very  successfully  for  about  six 
weeks,  when  the  creek  at  last  became  so  dry  that  we 
had  not  water  enough  to  run  our  long  torn,  and  the 
claim  was  rendered  for  the  present  unavailable.  It, 
of  course,  remained  good  to  us  for  next  season  ;  but 
as  I  had  no  idea  of  being  there  to  work  it,  I  sold  out 
my  interest  to  my  partners,  and,  throwing  mining  to 
the  dogs,  I  broke  out  in  a  fresh  place  altogether. 

I  had  always  been  in  the  habit  of  amusing  myself 
by  sketching  in  my  leisure  moments,  especially  in 
the  middle  of  the  day,  for  an  hour  or  so  after  dinner, 
when  all  hands  were  taking  a  rest — "  nooning,"  as  the 
miners  call  it — lying  in  the  shade,  in  the  full  enjoy- 
ment of  their  pipes,  or  taking  a  nap.  My  sketches 
were  much  sought  after,  and  on  Sundays  I  was  beset 

by   men   begging   me  to   do   something  for   them. 


162  THE    FINE   ARTS   IN   THE   MINES. 

Every  man  wanted  a  sketch  of  his  claim,  or  his 
cabin,  or  some  spot  with  which  he  identified  him- 
self ;  and  as  they  all  offered  to  pay  very  handsomely, 
I  was  satisfied  that  I  could  make  paper  and  pencil 
much  more  profitable  tools  to  work  with  than  pick 
and  shovel. 

My  new  pursuit  had  the  additional  attraction  of 
affording  me  an  opportunity  of  gratifying  the  desire 
which  I  had  long  felt  of  wandering  over  the  mines, 
and  seeing  all  the  various  kinds  of  diggings,  and  the 
strange  specimens  of  human  nature  to  be  found  in 

I  sent  to  Sacramento  for  a  fresh  supply  of  drawing- 
paper,  for  which  I  had  only  to  pay  the  moderate  sum 
of  two  dollars  and  a  half  (ten  shillings  sterling)  a  sheet ; 
and  finding  my  old  brother-miners  very  liberal  patrons 
of  the  fine  arts,  I  remained  some  time  in  the  neigh- 
bourhood actively  engaged  with  my  pencil. 

I  then  had  occasion  to  return  to  Hangtown.  On 
my  arrival  there,  I  went  as  usual  to  the  cabin  of  my 
friend  the  doctor,  which  I  found  in  a  pretty  mess. 
The  ground  on  which  some  of  the  houses  were  built 
had  turned  out  exceedingly  rich  ;  and  thinking  that 
he  might  be  as  lucky  as  his  neighbours,  the  doctor 
had  got  a  party  of  six  miners  to  work  the  inside  of 
his  cabin  on  half  shares.  He  was  to  have  half  the 
gold  taken  out,  as  the  rights  of  property  in  any  sort 
of  house  or  habitation  in  the  mines  extend  to  the 
mineral  wealth  below  it.  In  his  cabin  were  two 
large  holes,  six  feet  square  and  about  seven  deep  ;  in 


each  of  these  were  three  miners,  picking  and  shovel- 
ling, or  washing  the  dirt  in  rockers  with  the  water 
pumped  out  of  the  holes.  When  one  place  had  been 
worked  out,  the  dirt  was  all  shovelled  back  into  the 
hole,  and  another  one  commenced  alongside  of  it. 
They  took  about  a  fortnight  in  this  way  to  work 
all  the  floor  of  the  cabin,  and  found  it  very  rich. 

There  was  a  young  Southerner  in  Hangtown  at 
this  time,  who  had  brought  one  of  his  slaves  with 
him  to  California.  They  worked  and  lived  together, 
master  and  man  sharing  equally  the  labours  and  hard- 
ships of  the  mines. 

One  night  the  slave  dreamed  that  they  had  been 
working  the  inside  of  a  certain  cabin  in  the  street, 
and  had  taken  out  a  great  pile  of  gold.  He  told  his 
master  in  the  morning,  but  neither  of  them  thought 
much  of  it,  as  such  golden  dreams  are  by  no  means 
uncommon  among  the  miners.  A  few  nights  after- 
wards, however,  he  had  precisely  the  same  dream, 
and  was  so  convinced  that  their  fortune  lay  waiting 
for  them  under  this  particular  cabin,  that  he  suc- 
ceeded at  last  in  persuading  his  master  to  believe 
it  also.  He  said  nothing  to  any  one  about  the 
dream,  but  made  some  pretext  for  wishing  to  be- 
come the  owner  of  the  cabin,  and  finally  succeeded 
in  buying  it.  He  and  his  slave  immediately  moved 
in,  and  set  to  work  digging  up  the  earthen  floor,  and 
the  dream  proved  to  be  so  far  true,  that  before  they 
had  worked  all  the  ground  they  had  taken  out  twenty 
thousand  dollars. 



There  were  many  slaves  in  various  parts  of  the 
mines  working  with  their  masters,  and  I  knew  fre- 
quent instances  of  their  receiving  their  freedom. 
Some  slaves  I  have  also  seen  left  in  the  mines  by 
their  masters,  working  faithfully  to  make  money 
enough  w^herewith  to  buy  themselves.  Of  course,  as 
California  is  a  free  State,  a  slave,  when  once  taken 
there  by  his  master,  became  free  by  law  ;  but  no  man 
would  bring  a  slave  to  the  country,  unless  one  on 
whose  fidelity  he  could  depend. 

Niggers,  in  some  parts  of  the  mines,  were  pretty 
numerous,  though  by  no  means  forming  so  large  a 
proportion  of  the  population  as  in  the  Atlantic 
States.  As  miners  they  were  proverbially  lucky,  but 
they  were  also  inveterate  gamblers,  and  did  not  long 
remain  burdened  with  their  unwonted  riches. 

In  the  mines  the  Americans  seemed  to  exhibit 
more  tolerance  of  negro  blood  than  is  usual  in  the 
States — not  that  negroes  were  allowed  to  sit  at  table 
with  white  men,  or  considered  to  be  at  all  on  an 
equality,  but,  owing  partly  to  the  exigencies  of  the 
unsettled  state  of  society,  and  partly,  no  doubt, 
to  the  important  fact,  that  a  nigger's  dollars  were 
as  good  as  any  others,  the  Americans  overcame  their 
prejudices  so  far  that  negroes  were  permitted  to  lose 
their  money  in  the  gambling  rooms  ;  and  in  the  less 
frequented  drinking-shops  they  might  be  seen  receiv- 
ing drinks  at  the  hands  of  white  bar-keepers.  In  a 
town  or  camp  of  any  size  there  was  always  a  "  nigger 
boarding-house/'  kept,  of  course,  by  a  darky,  for  the 


special  accommodation  of  coloured  people ;  but  in 
places  where  there  was  no  such  institution,  or  at 
wayside  houses,  when  a  negro  wanted  accommoda- 
tion, he  waited  till  the  company  had  finished  their 
meal  and  left  the  table  before  he  ventured  to  sit 
down.  I  have  often,  on  such  occasions,  seen  the 
white  waiter,  or  the  landlord,  when  he  filled  that 
office  himself,  serving  a  nigger  with  what  he  wanted 
without  apparently  doing  any  violence  to  his  feel- 

A  very  striking  proof  was  seen,  in  this  matter  of 
waiting,  of  the  revolution  which  California  life  caused 
in  the  feelings  and  occupations  of  the  inhabitants. 
The  Americans  have  an  intense  feeling  of  repugnance 
to  any  kind  of  menial  service,  and  consider  waiting 
at  table  as  quite  degrading  to  a  free  and  enlightened 
citizen.  In  the  United  States  there  is  hardly  such  a 
thing  to  be  found  as  a  native-born  American  waiting 
at  table.  Such  service  is  always  performed  by  negroes, 
Irishmen,  or  Germans  ;  but  in  California,  in  the  mines 
at  least,  it  was  very  different.  The  almighty  dollar 
exerted  a  still  more  powerful  influence  than  in  the 
old  States,  for  it  overcame  all  pre-existing  false 
notions  of  dignity.  The  principle  was  universally 
admitted  and  acted  on,  that  no  honest  occupation 
was  derogatory,  and  no  question  of  dignity  inter- 
fered to  prevent  a  man  from  employing  himself  in 
any  way  by  which  it  suited  his  convenience  to  make 
his  money.  It  was  nothing  uncommon  to  see 
men  of  refinement  and  education  keeping  restaur- 


ants  or  roadside  houses,  and  waiting  on  any  raga- 
muffin who  chose  to  patronise  them,  with  as  much 
empressement  as  an  English  waiter  who  expects  his 
customary  coppers.  But  as  no  one  considered  him- 
self demeaned  by  his  occupation,  neither  was  there 
any  assumption  of  a  superiority  which  was  not  al- 
lowed to  exist ;  and  whatever  were  their  relative 
positions,  men  treated  each  other  with  an  equal 
amount  of  deference. 

After  being  detained  a  few  days  in  Hangtown 
waiting  for  letters  from  San  Francisco,  I  set  out  for 
Nevada  City,  about  seventy  miles  north,  intending 
from  there  to  travel  up  the  Yuba  Eiver,  and  see  what 
was  to  be  seen  in  that  part  of  the  mines. 

My  way  lay  through  Middletown,  the  scene  of  my 
former  mining  exploits,  and  from  that  through  a 
small  village,  called  Cold  Springs,  to  Caloma,  the 
place  where  gold  was  first  discovered.  It  lies  at  the 
base  of  high  mountains,  on  the  south  fork  of  the 
American  Eiver.  There  were  a  few  very  neat  well- 
painted  houses  in  the  village  ;  but  as  the  diggings  in 
the  neighbourhood  were  not  particularly  good,  there 
was  little  life  or  animation  about  the  place  ;  in 
fact,  it  was  the  dullest  mining  town  in  the  whole 

The  first  discovery  of  gold  was  accidentally  made 
at  this  spot  by  some  workmen  in  the  employment  of 
Colonel  Sutter,  while  digging  a  race  to  convey  water 
to  a  saw-mill.  Colonel  Sutter,  a  Swiss  by  birth,  had, 


some  years  before,  penetrated  to  California,  and  there 
established  himself.  The  fort  which  he  built  for 
protection  against  the  Indians,  and  in  which  he  re- 
sided, is  situated  a  few  miles  from  where  Sacramento 
City  now  stands. 

I  dined  at  Caloma,  and  proceeded  on  my  way, 
having  a  stiff  hill  to  climb  to  gain  the  high  land 
lying  between  me  and  the  middle  fork  of  the  Ameri- 
can Eiver.  Crossing  the  rivers  is  the  most  laborious 
part  of  California  travelling ;  they  flow  so  far  below 
the  average  level  of  the  country,  which,  though  ex- 
ceedingly rough  and  hilly,  is  comparatively  easy  to 
travel ;  but  on  coming  to  the  brink  of  this  high  land, 
and  looking  down  upon  the  river  thousands  of  feet 
below  one,  the  summit  of  the  opposite  side  appears 
almost  nearer  than  the  river  itself,  and  one  longs  for 
the  loan  of  a  pair  of  wings  for  a  few  moments  to 
save  the  toil  of  descending  so  far,  and  having  again 
to  climb  an  equal  height  to  gain  such  an  apparently 
short  distance. 

Some  miles  from  Caloma  is  a  very  pretty  place 
called  Greenwood  Valley — a  long,  narrow,  winding 
valley,  with  innumerable  ravines  running  into  it 
from  the  low  hills  on  each  side.  For  several  miles 
I  travelled  down  this  valley :  the  bed  of  the  creek 
which  flowed  through  it,  and  all  the  ravines,  had 
been  dug  up,  and  numbers  of  cabins  stood  on  the 
hill-sides  ;  but  at  this  season  the  creek  was  com- 
pletely dry,  and  consequently  no  mining  operations 


could  be  carried  on.  The  cabins  were  all  tenantless, 
and  the  place  looked  more  desolate  than  if  its  soli- 
tude had  never  been  disturbed  by  man. 

At  the  lower  end  of  Greenwood  Valley  was  a 
small  village  of  the  same  name,  consisting  of  half-a- 
dozen  cabins,  two  or  three  stores,  and  a  hotel.  While 
stopping  here  for  the  night,  I  enjoyed  a  great  treat 
in  the  perusal  of  a  number  of  late  newspapers — 
among  others  the  Illustrated  News,  containing  ac- 
counts of  the  Great  Exhibition.  In  the  mines  one 
was  apt  to  get  sadly  behind  in  modern  history.  The 
Express  men  in  the  towns  made  a  business  of  selling 
editions  of  the  leading  papers  of  the  United  States, 
containing  the  news  of  the  fortnight,  and  expressly 
got  up  for  circulation  in  California.  Of  these  the 
most  popular  with  northern  men  was  the  New  York 
Herald,  and  with  the  southerners  the  New  Orleans 
Delta.  The  Illustrated  News  was  also  a  great 
favourite,  being  usually  sold  at  a  dollar,  while  other 
papers  only  fetched  half  that  price.  But  unless  one 
happened  to  be  in  some  town  or  village  when  the 
mail  from  the  States  arrived,  there  was  little  chance 
of  ever  seeing  a  paper,  as  they  were  all  bought  up 

I  struck  the  middle  fork  of  the  American  Eiver  at 
a  place  called  Spanish  Bar.  The  scenery  was  very 
grand.  Looking  down  on  the  river  from  the  summit 
of  the  range,  it  seemed  a  mere  thread  winding  along 
the  deep  chasm  formed  by  the  mountains,  which 
were  so  steep  that  the  pine  trees  clinging  to  their 

A    "  BAR."  1  69 

sides  looked  as  though  they  would  slip  down  into  the 
river.  The  face  of  the  mountain  by  which  I  descended 
was  covered  with  a  perfect  trellice-work  of  zigzag 
trails,  so  that  I  could  work  my  way  down  by  long  or 
short  tacks  as  I  felt  inclined.  On  the  mountain  on  the 
opposite  side  I  could  see  the  faint  line  of  the  trail  which 
I  had  to  follow;  it  did  not  look  by  any  means  inviting ; 
and  I  was  thankful  that,  for  the  present  at  any  rate, 
I  was  going  down  hill.  Walking  down  a  long  hill, 
however,  so  steep  that  one  dare  not  run,  though  not 
quite  such  hard  work  at  the  time  as  climbing  up,  is 
equally  fatiguing  in  its  results,  as  it  shakes  one's 
knees  all  to  pieces. 

I  reached  the  river  at  last,  and,  crossing  over  in  a 
canoe,  landed  on  the  "  Bar." 

What  they  call  a  Bar  in  California  is  the  flat 
which  is  usually  found  on  the  convex  side  of  a  bend 
in  a  river.  Such  places  have  nearly  always  proved 
very  rich,  that  being  the  side  on  which  any  deposit 
carried  down  by  the  river  will  naturally  lodge,  while 
the  opposite  bank  is  generally  steep  and  precipitous, 
and  contains  little  or  no  gold.  Indeed,  there  are  not 
many  exceptions  to  the  rule  that,  in  a  spot  where  one 
bank  of  a  river  affords  good  diggings,  the  other  side 
is  not  worth  working. 

The  largest  camps  or  villages  on  the  rivers  are  on 
the  bars,  and  take  their  names  from  them. 

The  nomenclature  of  the  mines  is  not  very  choice  or 
elegant.  The  rivers  all  retain  the  names  given  to  them 
by  the  Spaniards,  but  every  little  creek,  flat,  and  ravine, 


besides  of  course  the  towns  and  villages  which  have 
been  called  into  existence,  have  received  their  names 
at  the  hands  of  the  first  one  or  two  miners  who  have 
happened  to  strike  the  diggings.  The  individual 
pioneer  has  seldom  shown  much  invention  or  origin- 
ality in  his  choice  of  a  name ;  in  most  cases  he  has 
either  immortalised  his  own  by  tacking  "  ville "  or 
"  town"  to  the  end  of  it,  or  has  more  modestly  chosen 
the  name  of  some  place  in  his  native  State ;  but  a  vast 
number  of  places  have  been  absurdly  named  from 
some  trifling  incident  connected  with  their  first  set- 
tlement ;  such  as  Shirt  Tail  Canon,  Whisky  Gulch, 
Port  Wine  Diggins,  Humbug  Flat,  Murderer's  Bar, 
Flapjack  Canon,  Yankee  Jim's,  Jackass  Gulch,  and 
hundreds  of  others  with  equally  ridiculous  names. 

Spanish  Bar  was  about  half  a  mile  in  length,  and 
three  or  four  hundred  yards  wide.  The  whole  place 
was  honeycombed  with  the  holes  in  which  the  miners 
were  at  work ;  all  the  trees  had  been  cut  down,  and 
there  was  nothing  but  the  red  shirts  of  the  miners  to 
relieve  the  dazzling  whiteness  of  the  heaps  of  stones 
and  gravel  which  reflected  the  fierce  rays  of  the  sun, 
and  made  the  extreme  heat  doubly  severe. 

At  the  foot  of  the  mountain,  as  if  they  had  been 
pushed  back  as  far  as  possible  off  the  diggings,  stood 
a  row  of  booths  and  tents,  most  of  them  of  a  very 
ragged  and  worn-out  appearance.  I  made  for  the 
one  which  looked  most  imposing — a  canvass  edifice, 
which,  from  the  huge  sign  all  along  the  front,  assumed 
to  be  the  "  United  States"  Hotel.  It  was  not  far  from 


twelve  o'clock,  the  universal  dinner-hour  in  the  mines; 
so  I  lighted  my  pipe,  and  lay  down  in  the  shade  to 
compose  myself  for  the  great  event. 

The  American  system  of  using  hotels  as  regular 
boarding-houses  prevails  also  in  California.  The 
hotels  in  the  mines  are  really  boarding-houses,  for  it 
is  on  the  number  of  their  boarders  they  depend.  The 
transient  custom  of  travellers  is  merely  incidental. 
The  average  rate  of  board  per  week  at  these  institu- 
tions was  twelve  or  fifteen  dollars,  and  the  charge 
for  a  single  meal  was  a  dollar,  or  a  dollar  and 
a  half. 

The  "  United  States"  seemed  to  have  a  pretty  good 
run  of  business.  As  the  hour  of  noon  (feeding  time) 
approached,  the  miners  began  to  congregate  in  the 
bar-room  ;  many  of  them  took  advantage  of  the  few 
minutes  before  dinner  to  play  cards,  while  the  rest 
looked  on,  or  took  gin  cocktails  to  whet  their  appe- 
tites. At  last  there  could  not  have  been  less  than 
sixty  or  seventy  miners  assembled  in  the  bar-room, 
which  was  a  small  canvass  enclosure  about  twenty  feet 
square.  On  one  side  was  a  rough  wooden  door  com- 
municating with  the  salle  d  manger;  to  get  as  near  to 
this  as  possible  was  the  great  object,  and  there  was  a 
press  against  it  like  that  at  the  pit  door  of  a  theatre 
on  a  benefit  night. 

As  twelve  o'clock  struck  the  door  was  drawn  aside, 
displaying  the  banqueting  hall,  an  apartment  some- 
what larger  than  the  bar-room,  and  containing  two 
long  tables  well  supplied  with  fresh  beef,  potatoes, 

172  A   QUIET   DINNER 

beans,  pickles,  and  salt  pork.  As  soon  as  the  door 
was  opened  there  was  a  shout,  a  rush,  a  scramble,  and  a 
loud  clatter  of  knives  and  forks,  and  in  the  course  of 
a  very  few  minutes  fifty  or  sixty  men  had  finished 
their  dinner.  Of  course  many  more  rushed  into  the 
dining-room  than  could  find  seats,  and  the  disap- 
pointed ones  came  out  again  looking  rather  foolish, 
but  they  "  guessed  there  would  be  plenty  to  eat  at 
the  second  table." 

Having  had  some  experience  of  such  places,  I  had 
intended  being  one  of  the  second  detachment  myself, 
and  so  I  guessed  likewise  that  there  would  be  plenty 
to  eat  at  the  second  table,  and  "  cal'lated"  also  that  I 
would  have  more  time  to  eat  it  in  than  at  the  first. 

We  were  not  kept  long  waiting.  In  an  incredibly 
short  space  of  time  the  company  began  to  return  to 
the  bar-room,  some  still  masticating  a  mouthful  of 
food,  others  picking  their  teeth  with  their  fingers,  or 
with  sharp-pointed  bowie-knives,  and  the  rest,  with  a 
most  provokingly  complacent  expression  about  their 
eyes,  making  horrible  motions  with  their  jaws,  as 
if  they  were  wiping  out  their  mouths  with  their 
tongues,  determined  to  enjoy  the  last  lingering  after- 
taste of  the  good  things  they  had  been  eating — rather 
a  disgusting  process  to  a  spectator  at  any  time,  but 
particularly  aggravating  to  hungry  men  waiting  for 
their  dinner. 

When  they  had  all  left  the  dining-room,  the  door  was 
again  closed  while  the  table  was  being  relaid.  In  the 
mean  time  there  had  been  constant  fresh  arrivals,  and 

AT   A   TABLE   D'HOTE.  173 

there  were  now  almost  as  many  waiting  for  the  second 
table  as  there  had  been  for  the  first.  A  crowd  very 
quickly  began  to  collect  round  the  door,  and  I  saw 
that  to  dine  at  number  two,  as  I  had  intended,  I 
must  enter  into  the  spirit  of  the  thing ;  so  I  elbowed 
my  way  into  the  crowd,  and  secured  a  pretty  good 
position  behind  a  tall  Kentuckian,  who  I  knew  would 
clear  the  way  before  me.  Very  soon  the  door  was 
opened,  when  in  we  rushed  pell-mell.  I  laboured 
under  the  disadvantage  of  not  knowing  the  diggings ; 
being  a  stranger,  I  did  not  know  the  lay  of  the  tables, 
or  whereabouts  the  joints  were  placed ;  but  im- 
mediately on  entering  I  caught  sight  of  a  good-look- 
ing roast  of  beef  at  the  far  end  of  one  of  the  tables, 
at  which  I  made  a  desperate  charge.  I  was  not  so 
green  as  to  lose  time  in  trying  to  get  my  legs  over 
the  bench  and  sit  down,  and  in  so  doing  perhaps  be 
crowded  out  altogether  ;  but  I  seized  a  knife  and  fork, 
with  which  I  took  firm  hold  of  my  prize,  and  occupy- 
ing as  much  space  as  possible  with  my  elbows,  I 
gradually  insinuated  myself  into  my  seat.  Without 
letting  go  the  beef,  I  then  took  a  look  round,  and 
had  the  gratification  of  seeing  about  a  dozen  men 
leaving  the  room,  with  a  most  ludicrous  expression 
of  disappointment  and  hope  long  deferred.  I  have 
no  doubt  that  when  they  got  into  the  bar-room  they 
guessed  there  would  be  lots  to  eat  at  table  number 
three  ;  I  hope  there  was.  I  know  there  was  plenty  at 
number  two  ;  but  it  was  a  "  grab  game  " — every  man 
for  himself.  If  I  had  depended  on  the  waiter  getting 


me  a  slice  of  roast  beef,  I  should  have  had  the 
hungry  number  threes  down  upon  me  before  I  had 
commenced  my  dinner. 

Good-humour,  however,  was  the  order  of  the  day  ; 
conversation,  of  course,  was  out  of  the  question  ;  but 
if  you  asked  a  man  to  pass  you  a  dish,  he  did  do  so 
with  pleasure,  devoting  one  hand  to  your  service, 
while  with  his  knife  or  fork,  as  it  might  be,  in  the 
other,  he  continued  to  convey  the  contents  of  his 
plate  to  their  ultimate  destination.  I  must  say  that 
a  knife  was  a  favourite  weapon  with  my  convives,  and 
in  wielding  it  they  displayed  considerable  dexterity, 
using  it  to  feed  themselves  with  such  things  as  most 
people  would  eat  with  a  spoon,  if  eating  for  a  wager, 
or  with  a  fork  if  only  eating  for  ordinary  purposes. 

After  dinner  a  smart -looking  young  gentleman 
opened  a  monte  bank  in  the  bar-room,  laying  out 
five  or  six  hundred  dollars  on  the  table  as  his  bank. 
For  half  an  hour  or  so  he  did  a  good  business,  when 
the  miners  began  to  drop  off  to  resume  their  work. 



I  MADE  inquiries  as  to  my  route,  and  found  that  the 
first  habitation  I  should  reach  was  a  ranch  called  the 
Grizzly-Bear  House,  about  fifteen  miles  off.  The  trail 
had  been  well  travelled,  and  I  had  little  difficulty  in 
finding  my  way.  After  a  few  hours'  walking,  I  was 
beginning  to  think  that  the  fifteen  miles  must  be 
nearly  up  ;  and  as  I  heard  an  occasional  crack  of  a 
rifle,  I  felt  pretty  sure  I  was  getting  near  the  end  of 
my  journey. 

The  ground  undulated  like  the  surface  of  the  ocean 
after  a  heavy  gale  of  wind,  and  as  I  rose  over  the  top 
of  one  of  the  waves,  I  got  a  glimpse  of  a  log-cabin  a 
few  hundred  yards  ahead  of  me,  which,  seen  through 
the  lofty  colonnade  of  stately  pines,  appeared  no 
bigger  than  a  rat-trap. 


As  I  approached,  I  found  it  was  the  Grizzly-Bear 
House.  There  could  be  no  mistake  about  it,  for  a 
strip  of  canvass,  on  which  "  The  Grizzly-Bear  House  " 
was  painted  in  letters  a  foot  and  a  half  high,  was 
stretched  along  the  front  of  the  cabin  over  the  door  ; 
and  that  there  might  be  no  doubt  as  to  the  meaning 
of  this  announcement,  the  idea  was  further  impressed 
upon  one  by  the  skin  of  an  enormous  grizzly  bear, 
which,  spread  out  upon  the  wall,  seemed  to  be  taking 
the  whole  house  into  its  embrace. 

I  found  half-a-dozen  men  standing  before  the  door, 
amusing  themselves  by  shooting  at  a  mark  with  their 
rifles.  The  distance  was  only  about  a  hundred  yards, 
but  even  at  that  distance,  when  it  comes  to  hitting  a 
card  nailed  to  a  pine-tree  nine  times  out  of  ten,  it  is 
pretty  good  shooting. 

Before  dark,  four  or  five  other  travellers  arrived, 
and  about  a  dozen  of  us  sat  down  to  supper  together. 
The  house  was  nothing  more  than  a  large  log-cabin. 
At  one  end  was  the  bar,  a  narrow  board  three  feet 
long,  behind  which  were  two  or  three  decanters  and 
some  kegs  of  liquor,  a  few  cigars  in  tumblers,  some 
odd  bottles  of  champagne,  and  a  box  of  tobacco. 

A  couple  of  benches  and  a  table  occupied  the  centre 
of  the  house,  and  sacks  of  flour  and  other  provisions 
stood  in  the  corners.  Out  in  the  forest,  behind  the 
cabin,  was  a  cooking-stove,  with  a  sort  of  awning 
over  it.  This  was  the  kitchen  ;  and  certainly  the 
cook  could  not  complain  of  want  of  room  ;  but,  judg- 
ing from  our  supper,  he  was  not  called  upon  to  go 


through  any  very  difficult  manoeuvres  in  the  practice 
of  his  art.  He  knocked  off  his  rifle  practice  about 
half  an  hour  before  supper  to  go  and  light  the  kitchen 
fire,  and  the  fruits  of  his  subsequent  labours  appeared 
in  a  large  potful  of  tea  and  a  lot  of  beefsteaks.  The 
bread  was  uncommonly  stale,  from  which  I  presumed 
that,  when  he  did  bake,  he  baked  enough  to  last  for 
about  a  week. 

After  supper,  every  man  lighted  his  pipe,  and 
though  all  were  sufficiently  talkative,  the  attention 
of  the  whole  party  became  very  soon  monopolised  by 
two  individuals,  who  were  decidedly  the  lions  of  the 
evening.  One  of  them  was  a  man  from  Illinois,  who 
had  been  in  the  Mexican  war,  and  who  no  doubt 
thought  he  might  have  been  a  General  Scott,  if  he 
had  only  had  the  opportunity  of  distinguishing  him- 
self. He  commented  on  the  tactics  of  the  generals 
as  if  he  knew  more  of  warfare  than  any  of  them  ;  and 
the  awful  yarns  he  told  of  how  he  and  the  American 
army  had  whipped  the  Mexicans,  and  given  them 
"  particular  hell,"  as  he  called  it,  was  enough  to  make 
a  civilian's  hair  stand  on  end.  Some  of  his  hearers 
swallowed  every  word  he  said,  without  even  making 
a  wry  face  at  it ;  but  as  he  tried  to  make  out  that  all 
the  victories  were  gained  by  the  Illinois  regiment,  in 
which  he  served  as  full  private,  two  or  three  of  the 
party,  who  knew  something  of  the  history  of  the  war, 
and  came  from  other  States  of  the  Union,  had  no 
idea  of  letting  Illinois  have  all  the  glory  of  the  achieve- 
ments, and  disputed  the  correctness  of  his  statements. 


178  A   BEAR -HUNTER. 

Illinois,  however,  was  too  many  for  them  ;  he  was  not 
to  be  stumped  in  that  way  ;  he  had  a  stock  of  authen- 
tic facts  on  hand  for  any  emergency,  with  which  he 
corroborated  all  his  previous  assertions.  The  resist- 
ance he  met  with  only  stimulated  him  to  greater 
efforts,  and  the  more  one  of  his  facts  was  doubted, 
the  more  incredible  was  the  next ;  till  at  last  he 
detailed  his  confidential  conversations  with  General 
Taylor,  and  made  himself  out  to  be  a  sort  of  a  fellow 
who  swept  Mexicans  off  the  face  of  the  earth  as  a 
common  man  would  kill  mosquitoes. 

He  did  not  have  all  the  talking  to  himself,  how- 
ever. One  of  the  men  who  kept  the  house  was  a 
bear-hunter  by  profession,  and  he  had  not  hunted 
grizzlies  for  nothing.  He  had  tales  to  tell  of  desperate 
encounters  and  hairbreadth  escapes,  to  which  the  ad- 
ventures of  Baron  Munchausen  were  not  a  circum- 
stance. He  was  a  dry  stringy -looking  man,  with 
light  hair  and  keen  grey  eyes.  His  features  were 
rather  handsome,  and  he  had  a  pleasing  expression; 
but  he  was  so  dried  up  and  tanned  by  exposure  and 
the  hard  life  he  led,  that  his  face  conveyed  no  idea  of 
flesh.  One  would  rather  have  expected,  on  cutting 
into  him,  to  find  that  he  was  composed  of  gutta- 
percha,  or  something  of  that  sort,  and  only  coloured 
on  the  outside.  He  and  Illinois  listened  to  each 
other's  stories  with  silent  contempt ;  in  fact,  they 
pretended  not  to  listen  at  all,  but  at  the  same  time 
each  watched  intently  for  the  slightest  halt  in  the 
other's  narrative ;  and  while  the  Illinois  man  was 

A   BEAR    STORY.  179 

only  taking  breath  during  some  desperate  struggle 
with  the  Mexicans,  the  hunter  in  a  moment  plunged 
right  into  the  middle  of  a  bear-story,  and  was  half 
eaten  up  by  a  grizzly  before  we  knew  what  he  was 
talking  about ;  and  as  soon  as  ever  that  bear  was 
disposed  of,  Illinois  immediately  went  on  with  his 
story  as  if  he  had  never  been  interrupted. 

The  hunter  had  rather  the  best  of  it ;  his  yarns 
were  uncommonly  tough  and  hard  of  digestion,  but 
there  were  no  historical  facts  on  record  to  bring 
against  him.  He  had  it  all  his  own  way,  for  the  only 
witnesses  of  his  exploits  were  the  grizzlies,  and  he 
always  managed  to  dispose  of  them  very  effectually 
by  finishing  their  career  along  with  his  story.  He 
showed  several  scars  on  different  parts  of  his  gutta- 
percha  person  which  he  received  from  the  paws  of 
the  grizzlies,  and  he  was  not  the  sort  of  customer 
whose  veracity  one  would  care  to  question,  especially 
as  implicit  faith  so  much  increased  one's  interest  in 
his  adventures.  One  man  nearly  got  into  a  scrape 
by  laughing  at  the  most  thrilling  part  of  one  of  his 
best  stories.  After  firing  twice  at  a  bear  without 
effect,  the  bear,  infuriated  by  the  balls  planted  in 
his  carcass,  was  rushing  upon  him.  He  took  to 
flight,  and,  loading  as  he  ran,  he  turned  and  put  a 
ball  into  the  bear's  left  eye.  The  bear  winked  a 
good  deal,  but  did  not  seem  to  mind  it  much — he  only 
increased  his  pace ;  so  the  hunter,  loading  again,  turned 
round  and  put  a  ball  into  his  right  eye;  whereupon 
the  bear,  now  winking  considerably  with  both  eyes,  put 


his  nose  to  the  ground,  and  began  to  run  him  down  by 
scent.  At  this  critical  moment,  a  great  stupid-looking 
lout,  who  had  been  sitting  all  night  with  his  eyes  and 
mouth  wide  open,  sucking  in  and  swallowing  every- 
thing that  was  said,  had  the  temerity  to  laugh  incre- 
dulously. The  hunter  flared  up  in  a  moment.  "  What 
are  you  a-laafin'  at  \ "  he  said.  "  D'ye  mean  to  say  I 

"  Oh,"  said  the  other,  "  if  you  say  it  was  so,  I  sup- 
pose it's  all  right ;  you  ought  to  know  best.  But  I 
warn't  laafin'  at  you;  I  was  laafin'  at  the  bar/' 

"  What  do  you  know  about  barsl"  said  the  hunter, 
"  Did  you  ever  kill  a  bar?" 

The  poor  fellow  had  never  killed  a  "  bar,"  so  the 
hunter  snuffed  him  out  with  a  look  of  utter  contempt 
and  pity,  and  went  on  triumphantly  with  his  story, 
which  ended  in  his  getting  up  a  tree,  where  he  sat  and 
peppered  the  bear  as  he  went  smelling  round  the 
stump,  till  he  at  last  fell  mortally  wounded,  with  I 
don't  know  how  many  balls  in  his  body. 

The  grizzlies  are  the  commonest  kind  of  bear  found 
in  California,  and  are  very  large  animals,  weighing 
sometimes  sixteen  or  eighteen  hundred  pounds. 

Hunting  them  is  rather  dangerous  sport,  as  they  are 
extremely  tenacious  of  life,  and  when  wounded  inva- 
riably show  fight.  But  unless  molested  they  do  not 
often  attack  a  man  ;  in  fact,  they  are  hardly  ever  seen 
on  the  trails  during  the  day.  At  night,  however,  they 
prowl  about,  and  carry  off  whatever  comes  in  their 
way.  They  had  walked  off  with  a  young  calf  from 


this  ranch,  the  night  before,  and  the  hunter  was  going 
out  the  next  day  to  wreak  his  vengeance  upon  them. 
A  grizzly  is  well  worth  killing,  as  he  fetches  a  hundred 
dollars  or  more,  according  to  his  weight.  The  meat 
is  excellent,  but  it  needs  to  be  well  spiced,  for  in 
process  of  cooking  it  becomes  saturated  with  bear's 
grease.  In  the  mines,  however,  pomatum  is  an  article 
unknown,  and  so  no  unpleasantly  greasy  ideas  occur 
to  one  while  dining  off  a  good  piece  of  grizzly  bear. 

About  ten  o'clock,  at  the  conclusion  of  a  bear  story, 
there  was  a  general  move  towards  one  corner  of  the 
cabin  where  there  were  a  lot  of  rifles,  and  where  every 
man  had  thrown  his  roll  of  blankets.  The  floor  was 
swept,  and  each  one,  choosing  his  own  location,  spread 
his  blankets  and  lay  down.  Some  slept  in  their  boots, 
while  others  took  them  off,  to  put  under  their  heads 
by  way  of  pillows.  I  was  one  of  the  latter  number, 
being  rather  partial  to  pillows ;  and  selecting  a  spot 
for  my  head,  where  it  would  be  as  far  from  other  heads 
as  possible,  I  lay  down,  and  stretching  out  my  feet 
promiscuously,  I  was  very  soon  in  the  land  of  dreams, 
where  I  went  through  the  whole  Mexican  campaign, 
and  killed  more  "  bars"  than  ever  the  hunter  had  seen 
in  his  life. 

People  do  not  lie  a-bed  in  the  morning  in  California ; 
perhaps  they  would  not  anywhere,  if  they  had  no  bet- 
ter beds  than  we  had;  so  before  daylight  there  was  a 
general  resurrection,  and  a  very  general  ablution  was 
performed  in  a  tin  basin  which  stood  on  a  keg  outside 
the  cabin,  alongside  of  which  was  a  barrel  of  water. 

182  KELLY'S  BAR. 

Over  the  basin  hung  a  very  small  looking-glass,  in 
which  one  could  see  one  eye  at  a  time;  and  attached 
to  it  by  a  long  string  was  a  comb  for  the  use  of  those 
gentlemen  who  did  not  travel  with  their  dressing- 

Some  of  the  party,  the  warrior  among  the  number, 
commenced  the  day  by  taking  a  gin  cocktail,  the 
hunter  acting  as  bar -keeper,  while  his  partner  the 
cook,  who  had  been  up  an  hour  before  any  of  us 
chopping  wood  and  lighting  a  fire,  was  laying  the 
table  for  breakfast. 

Breakfast  was  an  affair  of  but  very  few  moments, 
and  as  soon  as  it  was  over,  I  set  out  in  company  with 
three  or  four  of  the  party,  who  were  going  the  same 

We  crossed  the  north  fork  of  the  American  Eiver 
at  Kelly's  Bar,  a  very  rocky  little  place,  covered  with 
a  number  of  dilapidated  tents.  We  had  the  usual 
mountains  to  descend  and  ascend  in  crossing  the 
river,  but  on  gaining  the  summit  we  found  our- 
selves again  in  a  beautiful  rolling  country.  Not 
far  from  the  river  was  a  very  romantic  little  place 
called  Illinoistown,  consisting  of  three  shanties  and 
a  saw-mill.  The  pine-trees  in  the  neighbourhood  were 
of  an  enormous  size,  and  were  being  fast  converted 
into  lumber,  which  was  in  great  demand  for  various 
mining  operations,  and  sold  at  120  dollars  per  thou- 
sand feet.  We  fared  sumptuously  on  stewed  squirrels 
at  a  solitary  shanty  in  the  forest  a  few  miles  farther  on. 

These  little  wayside  inns,  or  "  ranches,"  as  they  are 

"  RANCHES."  183 

usually  called  in  the  mines,  are  generally  situated  in 
a  spot  which  offers  some  capabilities  of  cultivation, 
and  where  water,  the  great  desideratum  in  the  moun- 
tains, is  to  be  had  all  the  year.  The  owners  employ 
themselves  in  fencing -in  and  clearing  the  land,  and 
by  degrees  give  the  place  an  appearance  of  comfort 
and  civilisation.  One  finds  such  places  in  all  the 
different  stages  of  improvement,  from  a  small  tent  or 
log  cabin,  with  the  wild  forest  around  it  as  yet  undis- 
turbed, to  good  frame-houses  with  two  or  three 
rooms,  a  boarded  floor,  and  windows,  and  sur- 
rounded by  several  acres  of  cleared  land  under  cul- 

Oats  and  barley  are  the  principal  crops  raised  in 
the  mountains.  In  some  of  the  little  valleys  a 
species  of  wild  oats,  which  makes  excellent  hay, 
grows  very  luxuriantly.  In  passing  through  one 
such  place,  where  the  grasshoppers  were  in  clouds, 
we  found  a  number  of  Indian  squaws  catching  them 
with  small  nets  attached  to  a  short  stick,  in  the  style 
of  an  angler's  landing-net.  I  believe  they  bruise 
them  and  knead  them  into  a  paste,  somewhat  of  the 
consistency  of  potted  shrimps  ;  it  may  be  as  palatable 
also,  but  I  cannot  speak  from  experience  on  that  point. 
My  companions,  as  we  travelled  on,  branched  off  one 
by  one  to  their  respective  destinations,  and  I  was 
again  alone  when  I  got  to  the  ranch  where  I  in- 
tended to  pass  the  night.  It  was  somewhat  the 
same  style  of  thing  as  the  Grizzly -Bear  House, 
but  the  house  was  larger,  and  the  accommodation 


more  luxurious,  inasmuch  as  we  had  canvass  bunks 
or  shelves  to  sleep  upon. 

I  went  on  next  day  along  with  a  young  miner 
from  Georgia,  who  was  also  bound  for  Nevada.  We 
dined  at  a  place  where  we  crossed  Bear  Eiver  ;  and  a 
villanous  bad  dinner  it  was — nothing  but  bad  salt 
pork,  bad  pickled  onions,  and  bad  bread. 

On  resuming  our  journey,  we  were  joined  by  a  man 
who  said  he  always  liked  to  have  company  on  that 
road.  Several  robberies  and  murders  had  been  com- 
mitted on  it  of  late,  and  he  very  kindly  pointed  out 
to  us,  as  we  passed  it,  the  exact  spot  where,  a  few 
days  before,  one  man  had  been  shot  through  the 
head,  and  another  through  the  hat.  One  was  robbed 
of  seventy-five  cents,  the  other  of  eight  hundred 

It  was  a  very  romantic  place,  and  well  calculated  for 
the  operations  of  the  gentlemen  of  the  road,  being  a 
little  hollow  darkened  by  the  spreading  branches  of 
a  grove  of  oak-trees  ;  the  underwood  was  thick  and 
very  high,  and  as  the  trail  twisted  round  trees  and 
bushes,  a  traveller  could  not  see  more  than  a  few 
feet  before  or  behind  him.  'We  had  our  revolvers 
in  readiness ;  but  I  was  not  very  apprehensive,  as 
three  men,  all  showing  pistols  in  their  belts,  are 
rather  more  than  those  ruffians  generally  care  to 

We  arrived  at  Nevada  City  between  five  and  six 
o'clock,  when  I  took  a  look  round  to  find  the  most 
likely  place  for  a  good  supper,  being  particularly 

NEVADA   CITY.  185 

ravenous  after  the  long  walk  and  the  salt -pork 
dinner.  I  found  a  house  bearing  the  sign  of  "  Hotel 
de  Paris,"  and  my  choice  was  made  at  once.  As  I 
had  half  an  hour  to  wait  for  supper,  I  strolled  about 
the  town  to  see  what  sort  of  a  place  it  was.  It  is 
beautifully  situated  on  the  hills  bordering  a  small 
creek,  and  has  once  been  surrounded  by  a  forest  of 
magnificent  pine-trees,  which,  however,  had  been 
made  to  become  useful  instead  of  ornamental,  and 
nothing  now  remained  to  show  that  they  had  existed 
but  the  numbers  of  stumps  all  over  the  hill-sides. 
The  bed  of  the  creek,  which  had  once  flowed  past 
the  town,  was  now  choked  up  with  heaps  of  "trail- 
ings" — the  washed  dirt  from  which  the  gold  has 
been  extracted — the  white  colour  of  the  dirt  render- 
ing it  still  more  unsightly.  All  the  water  of  the  creek 
was  distributed  among  a  number  of  small  troughs, 
carried  along  the  steep  banks  on  either  side  at  dif- 
ferent elevations,  for  the  purpose  of  supplying  various 
quartz-mills  and  long-toms. 

The  town  itself— or,  I  should  say,  the  "  City,"  for 
from  the  moment  of  its  birth  it  has  been  called  Nevada 
City — is,  like  all  mining  towns,  a  mixture  of  staring 
white  frame-houses,  dingy  old  canvass  booths,  and 

The  only  peculiarity  about  the  miners  was  the 
white  mud  with  which  they  were  bespattered,  espe- 
cially those  working  in  underground  diggings,  who 
were  easily  distinguished  by  the  quantity  of  dry 
white  mud  on  the  tops  of  their  hats. 

186  A    THREE-DECKER. 

The  supper  at  the  Hotel  de  Paris  was  the  best-got- 
up  thing  of  the  kind  I  had  sat  down  to  for  some 
months.  We  began  with  soup — rather  flimsy  stuff, 
but  pretty  good — then  bouilli,  followed  by  filet-de- 
boeuf,  with  cabbage,  carrots,  turnips,  and  onions ; 
after  that  came  what  the  landlord  called  a  "  god-dam 
rosbif,"  with  green  pease,  and  the  whole  wound  up 
with  a  salad  of  raw  cabbage,  a  cup  of  good  coffee, 
and  cognac.  I  did  impartial  justice  to  every  depart- 
ment, and  rose  from  table  powerfully  refreshed. 

The  company  were  nearly  all  French  miners,  among 
whom  was  a  young  Frenchman  whom  I  had  known  in 
San  Francisco,  and  whom  I  hardly  recognised  in  his 
miner's  costume. 

We  passed  the  evening  together  in  some  of  the 
gambling  rooms,  where  we  heard  pretty  good  music ; 
and  as  there  were  no  sleeping  quarters  to  be  had  at 
the  house  where  I  dined,  I  went  to  an  American 
hotel  close  to  it.  It  was  in  the  usual  style  of  a 
boarding-house  in  the  mines,  but  it  was  a  three- 
decker.  All  round  the  large  sleeping-apartment  were 
three  tiers  of  canvass  shelves,  partitioned  into  spaces 
six  feet  long,  on  one  of  which  I  ]aid  myself  out, 
choosing  the  top  tier  in  case  of  accidents. 

Next  door  was  a  large  thin  wooden  building,  in 
which  a  theatrical  company  were  performing.  They 
were  playing  Richard,  and  I  could  hear  every  word 
as  distinctly  as  if  I  had  been  in  the  stage-box.  I 
could  even  fancy  I  saw  King  Dick  rolling  his  eyes 
about  like  a  man  in  a  fit,  when  he  shouted  for  "  A 

RICHARD    III.  187 

horse !  a  horse !"  The  fight  between  Eichard  and 
Eichmond  was  a  very  tame  affair ;  they  hit  hard  while 
they  were  at  it,  but  it  was  too  soon  over.  It  was  one- 
two,  one-two,  a  thrust,  and  down  went  Dick.  I 
heard  him  fall,  and  could  hear  him  afterwards  gasp- 
ing for  breath  and  scuffling  about  on  the  stage  in  his 
dying  agonies. 

After  King  Eichard  was  disposed  of,  the  orchestra, 
which  seemed  to  consist  of  two  fiddles,  favoured  us 
with  a  very  miscellaneous  piece  of  music.  There 
was  then  an  interlude  performed  by  the  audience, 
hooting,  yelling,  whistling,  and  stamping  their  feet; 
and  that  being  over,  the  curtain  rose,  and  we  had 
Bombastes  Furioso.  It  was  very  creditably  per- 
formed, but,  under  the  peculiar  circumstances  of  the 
case,  it  did  not  sound  to  me  nearly  so  absurd  as  the 

Some  half-dozen  men,  the  only  occupants  of  the 
room  besides  myself,  had  been  snoring  comfortably 
all  through  the  performances,  and  now  about  a  dozen 
more  came  in  and  rolled  themselves  on  to  their 
respective  shelves.  They  had  been  at  the  theatre, 
but  I  am  sure  they  had  not  enjoyed  it  so  much 
as  I  did. 



IN  this  part  of  the  country  the  pine-trees  are  of  an 
immense  size,  and  of  every  variety.  The  most  grace- 
ful is  what  is  called  the  "  sugar  pine/'  It  is  perfectly 
straight  and  cylindrical,  with  a  comparatively  smooth 
bark,  and,  till  about  four-fifths  of  its  height  from  the 
ground,  without  a  branch  or  even  a  twig.  The 
branches  then  spread  straight  out  from  the  stem, 
drooping  a  good  deal  at  the  extremities  from  the 
weight  of  the  immense  cones  which  they  bear.  These 
are  about  a  foot  and  a  half  long,  and  under  each  leaf 
is  a  seed  the  size  of  a  cherrystone,  and  which  has  a 
taste  even  sweeter  than  that  of  a  filbert.  The  Indians 
are  very  fond  of  them,  and  make  the  squaws  gather 
them  for  winter  food. 

A  peculiarity  of  the  pine-trees  in  California  is, 
that  the  bark,  from  within  eight  or  ten  feet  of  the 
ground  up  to  where  the  branches  commence,  is  com- 


pletely  riddled  with  holes,  such  as  might  be  made 
with  musket-balls.  They  are,  however,  the  work  of 
the  woodpeckers,  who,  like  the  Indians,  are  largely 
interested  in  the  acorn  crop.  They  are  constantly 
making  these  holes,  in  each  of  which  they  stow  away 
an  acorn,  leaving  it  as  tightly  wedged  in  as  though  it 
were  driven  in  with  a  sledge-hammer. 

There  were  several  quartz  veins  in  the  neighbour- 
hood of  Nevada,  some  of  which  were  very  rich,  and 
yielded  a  large  amount  of  gold ;  but,  generally  speak- 
ing, they  were  so  unscientifically  and  unprofitably 
worked  that  they  turned  out  complete  failures. 

Quartz  mining  is  a  scientific  operation,  of  which 
many  of  those  who  undertook  to  work  the  veins  had 
no  knowledge  whatever,  nor  had  they  sufficient  capi- 
tal to  carry  on  such  a  business.  The  cost  of  erecting 
crushing -mills,  and  of  getting  the  necessary  iron 
castings  from  San  Francisco,  was  very  great.  A  vast 
deal  of  labour  had  to  be  gone  through  in  opening 
the  mine  before  any  returns  could  be  received  ;  and, 
moreover,  the  method  then  adopted  of  crushing  the 
quartz  and  extracting  the  gold  was  so  defective  that 
not  more  than  one  half  of  it  was  saved. 

There  is  a  variety  of  diggings  here,  but  the  richest 
are  deep  diggings  in  the  hills  above  the  town,  and  are 
worked  by  means  of  shafts,  or  coyote  holes,  as  they 
are  called.  In  order  to  reach  the  gold-bearing  dirt, 
these  shafts  have  to  be  sunk  to  the  depth  of  nearly  a 
hundred  feet,  which  requires  the  labour  of  at  least 
two  men  for  a  month  or  six  weeks ;  and  when  they 


have  got  down  to  the  bottom,  perhaps  they  may  find 
nothing  to  repay  them  for  their  perseverance. 

The  miners  always  calculate  their  own  labour  at 
five  dollars  a-day  for  every  day  they  work,  that  being 
the  usual  wages  for  hired  labour ;  and  if  a  man,  after 
working  for  a  month  in  sinking  a  hole,  finds  no  pay- 
dirt  at  the  bottom  of  it,  he  sets  himself  down  as  a 
loser  of  a  hundred  and  fifty  dollars. 

They  make  up  heavy  bills  of  losses  against  them- 
selves in  this  way,  but  still  there  are  plenty  of  men  who 
prefer  devoting  themselves  to  this  speculative  style 
of  digging,  in  hopes  of  eventually  striking  a  rich  lead, 
to  working  steadily  at  surface  diggings,  which  would 
yield  them,  day  by  day,  sure  though  moderate  pay. 

But  mining  of  any  description  is  more  or  less 
uncertain,  and  any  man  "  hiring  out/'  as  it  is 
termed,  steadily  throughout  the  year,  and  pocketing 
his  five  dollars  a-day,  would  find  at  the  end  of  the 
year  that  he  had  done  as  well,  perhaps,  as  the 
average  of  miners  working  on  their  own  hook,  who 
spend  a  considerable  portion  of  their  time  in  prospect- 
ing, and  frequently,  in  order  to  work  a  claim  which 
may  afford  them  a  month's  actual  washing,  have  to 
spend  as  long  a  time  in  stripping  off  top -dirt,  digging 
ditches,  or  performing  other  necessary  labour  to  get 
their  claim  into  working  order ;  so  that  the  daily 
amount  of  gold  which  a  man  may  happen  to  be 
taking  out,  is  not  to  be  taken  in  itself  as  the  measure 
of  his  prosperity.  He  may  take  a  large  sum  out  of  a 
claim,  but  may  also  have  spent  as  much  upon  it 


before  he  began  to  wash,  and  half  the  days  of  the 
year  he  may  get  no  gold  at  all. 

There  were  plenty  of  men  who,  after  two  years' 
hard  work,  were  not  a  bit  better  off  than  when  they 
commenced,  having  lost  in  working  one  claim  what 
they  had  made  in  another,  and  having  frittered 
away  their  time  in  prospecting  and  wandering  about 
the  country  from  one  place  to  another,  always  ima- 
gining that  there  were  better  diggings  to  be  found 
than  those  they  were  in  at  the  time. 

Under  any  circumstances,  when  a  man  can  make 
ars  much,  or  perhaps  more,  by  working  for  himself, 
he  has  greater  pleasure  in  doing  so  than  in  working 
for  others  ;  and  among  men  engaged  in  such  an 
exciting  pursuit  as  gold-hunting,  constantly  stimu- 
lated by  the  success  of  some  one  of  their  neighbours, 
it  was  only  natural  that  they  should  be  loth  to 
relinquish  their  chance  of  a  prize  in  the  lottery,  by 
hiring  themselves  out  for  an  amount  of  daily  wages, 
which  was  no  more  than  any  one,  if  he  worked 
steadily,  could  make  for  himself. 

Those  who  did  hire  out  were  of  two  classes — cold- 
blooded philosophers,  who  calculated  the  chances,  and 
stuck  to  their  theory  unmoved  by  the  temptations 
around  them ;  and  men  who  had  not  sufficient  in- 
ventive energy  to  direct  their  own  labour  and  render 
it  profitable. 

The  average  amount  of  gold  taken  out  daily 
at  that  time  by  men  who  really  did  work,  was, 
I  should  think,  not  less  than  eight  dollars ;  but 

192  LOAFERS. 

the  average  daily  yield  of  the  mines  to  the  actual 
population  was  probably  not  more  than  three  or 
four  dollars  per  head,  owing  to  the  great  number  of 
"  loafers/'  who  did  not  work  more  than  perhaps  one 
day  in  the  week,  and  spent  the  rest  of  their  time  in 
bar-rooms,  playing  cards  and  drinking  whisky.  They 
led  a  listless  life  of  mild  dissipation,  for  they  never 
had  money  enough  to  get  very  drunk.  They  were 
always  in  debt  for  their  board  and  their  whisky  at 
the  boarding-house  where  they  lived  ;  and  when  hard 
pressed  to  pay  up,  they  would  hire  out  for  a  day  or 
two  to  make  enough  for  their  immediate  wants,  and 
then  return  to  loaf  away  their  existence  in  a  bar- 
room, as  long  as  the  boarding-house  keeper  thought 
it  advisable  to  give  them  credit.  I  never,  in  any 
part  of  the  mines,  was  in  a  store  or  boarding-house 
that  was  not  haunted  by  some  men  of  this  sort. 

Other  men,  with  more  ^energy  in  their  dissipation, 
and  old  sailors  especially,  would  have  periodical 
bursts,  more  intense  but  of  shorter  duration.  After 
mining  steadily  for  a  month  or  two,  and  saving  their 
money,  they  would  set  to  work  to  get  rid  of  it  as 
fast  as  possible.  An  old  sailor  went  about  it  most  sys- 
tematically. For  the  reason,  as  I  supposed,  that  when 
going  to  have  a  "  spree,"  he  imagined  himself  to  have 
come  ashore  off  a  voyage,  he  generally  commenced 
by  going  to  a  Jew's  slop-shop,  where  he  rigged  himself 
out  in  a  new  suit  of  clothes ;  he  would  then  go  the 
round  of  all  the  bar-rooms  in  the  place,  and  insist 
on  every  one  he  found  there  drinking  with  him, 

AN   OLD   SALT   ON   A   SPREE.  193 

informing  them  at  the  same  time  (though  it  was 
quite  unnecessary,  for  the  fact  was  very  evident) 
that  he  was  "on  the  spree."  Of  course,  he  soon 
made  himself  drunk,  but  before  being  very  far  gone 
he  would  lose  the  greater  part  of  his  money  to  the 
gamblers.  Cursing  his  bad  luck,  he  would  then 
console  himself  with  a  rapid  succession  of  "  drinks," 
pick  a  quarrel  with  some  one  who  was  not  inter- 
fering with  him,  get  a  licking,  and  be  ultimately 
rolled  into  a  corner  to  enjoy  the  more  passive  phase 
of  his  debauch.  On  waking  in  the  morning  he 
would  not  give  himself  time  to  get  sober,  but  would 
go  at  it  again,  and  keep  at  it  for  a  week — most 
affectionately  and  confidentially  drunk  in  the  fore- 
noon, fighting  drunk  in  the  afternoon,  and  dead- 
drunk  at  night.  The  next  week  he  would  get 
gradually  sober,  and,  recovering  his  senses,  would 
return  to  his  work  without  a  cent  in  his  pocket,  but 
quite  contented  and  happy,  with  his  mind  relieved 
at  having  had  what  he  considered  a  good  spree. 
Four  or  five  hundred  dollars  was  by  no  means  an 
unusual  sum  for  such  a  man  to  spend  on  an  occasion 
of  this  sort,  even  without  losing  much  at  the 
gaming-table.  The  greater  part  of  it  went  to  the 
bar-keepers  for  "  drinks,"  for  the  height  of  his  enjoy- 
ment was  every  few  minutes  to  ask  half-a-dozen  men 
to  drink  with  him. 

The  amount  of  money  thus  spent  at  the  bars  in 
the  mines  must  have  been  enormous  ;  the  system  of 
"  drinks"  was  carried  still  further  than  in  San  Fran- 



cisco  ;  and  there  were  numbers  of  men  of  this  de- 
scription who  were  fortunate  in  their  diggings,  and 
became  possessed  of  an  amount  of  gold  of  which 
they  could  not  realise  the  value.  They  only  knew  the 
difference  between  having  money  and  having  none ; 
a  hundred  dollars  was  to  them  as  good  as  a  thousand, 
and  a  thousand  was  in  their  ideas  about  the  same  as 
a  hundred.  It  did  not  matter  how  much  they  had 
saved ;  when  the  time  came  for  them  to  reward  them- 
selves with  a  spree  after  a  month  or  so  of  hard 
work,  they  made  a  clean  sweep  of  everything,  and 
spent  their  last  dollar  as  readily  as  the  first. 

I  did  not  remain  in  Nevada,  being  anxious  to  get 
down  to  the  Yuba  before  the  rainy  season  should 
set  in  and  put  a  stop  to  mining  operations  on  the 

Foster's  Bar,  about  thirty  miles  off,  was  the  near- 
est point  on  the  Yuba,  and  for  this  place  I  started. 
I  was  joined  on  leaving  the  town  by  a  German, 
carrying  his  gun  and  powder-horn  :  he  was  a  hunter 
by  profession,  as  he  informed  me,  having  followed 
that  business  for  more  than  a  year,  finding  ready 
sale  for  his  game  in  Nevada. 

The  principal  kinds  of  game  in  the  mountains  are 
deer,  quail,  hares,  rabbits,  and  squirrels.  The  quails, 
which  are  very  abundant,  are  beautiful  birds,  about 
the  size  of  a  pigeon,  with  a  top-knot  on  their  head  ; 
they  are  always  in  coveys,  and  rise  with  a  whirr  like 

My  hunting  companion  was  at  present  going  after 


deer,  and,  intending  to  stop  out  till  he  killed  one, 
he  carried  his  blanket  and  a  couple  of  days'  pro- 

I  arrived  about  noon  at  a  very  pretty  place  called 
Hunt's  Eanch.  It  was  a  large  log-house,  with  several 
well-cultivated  fields  around  it,  in  which  a  number 
of  men  were  at  work.  At  dinner  here  there  was 
the  most  extensive  set-out  of  vegetables  I  ever  saw 
in  the  country,  consisting  of  green  pease,  French 
beans,  cauliflower,  tomatoes,  onions,  cucumbers,  pump- 
kins, squash,  and  water-melons.  It  was  a  long  time 
since  I  had  seen  such  a  display,  and  not  knowing 
when  I  might  have  another  opportunity,  I  pitched 
into  them  right  and  left. 

I  was  lighting  my  pipe  in  the  bar-room  after 
dinner,  when  a  man  walked  in  whom  I  recognised 
at  once  as  one  of  my  fellow-passengers  from  New 
York  to  Chagres.  I  was  very  glad  to  see  him,  as  he 
was  one  of  the  most  favourable  specimens  of  that 
crowd  ;  and  according  to  the  custom  of  the  country, 
we  immediately  ratified  our  renewed  acquaintance 
in  a  brandy  cocktail.  He  was  returning  to  his  dig- 
gings about  ten  miles  off,  and  our  roads  being  the 
same,  we  set  out  together. 

He  gave  me  an  account  of  his  doings  since  he  had 
been  in  the  mines,  from  which  he  did  not  seem  to 
have  had  much  luck  on  his  side,  f<5r  most  of  the 
money  he  had  made  he  had  lost  in  buying  claims 
which  turned  out  valueless.  He  had  owned  a  share 
in  a  company  which  was  working  a  claim  on  the  Yuba, 

196  "PACKING." 

but  had  sold  it  for  a  mere  trifle  before  it  was 
ascertained  whether  the  claim  was  rich  or  not,  and 
it  was  now  yielding  150  dollars  a-day  to  the  man. 

We  crossed  the  Middle  Yuba,  a  small  stream,  at 
Emery's  Bridge,  where  my  friend  left  me,  and  I  went 
on  alone,  having  six  or  seven  miles  to  go  to  reach  my 
resting-place  for  the  night. 

I  was  now  in  a  region  of  country  so  mountainous 
as  to  be  perfectly  impassable  for  wheeled  vehicles. 
All  supplies  were  brought  to  the  various  trading 
posts  from  Marysville  on  trains  of  pack-mules. 

"  Packing,"  as  it  is  called,  is  a  large  business.  A 
packer  has  in  his  train  from  thirty  to  fifty  mules,  and 
four  or  five  Mexicans  to  tend  them — mule-driving, 
or  "packing,"  being  one  of  the  few  occupations  to 
which  Mexicans  devote  themselves  ;  and  at  this  they 
certainly  do  excel.  Though  generally  a  lazy,  indolent 
people,  it  is  astonishing  what  activity  and  energy 
they  display  in  an  employment  which  suits  their 
fancy.  They  drive  the  mules  about  twenty-five  miles 
a-day ;  and  in  camping  for  the  night,  they  have  to 
select  a  place  where  there  is  water,  and  where  there 
is  also  some  sort  of  picking  for  the  mules,  which,  in 
the  dry  season,  when  every  blade  of  vegetation  is 
burned  up,  is  rather  hard  to  find. 

I  came  across  a  train  of  about  forty  mules,  under 
charge  of  four  or  five  Mexicans,  just  as  they  were 
about  to  unpack,  and  make  their  camp.  The  spot 
they  chose  was  a  little  grassy  hollow  in  the  middle  of 
the  woods,  near  which  flowed  a  small  stream  of  beauti- 


fully  clear  water.  It  was  evidently  a  favourite 
camping-ground,  from  the  numbers  of  signs  of  old 
fires.  The  mules  seemed  to  know  it  too,  for  they  all 
stopped  and  commenced  picking  the  grass.  The 
Mexicans,  who  were  riding  tough  little  Californian 
horses,  immediately  dismounted  and  began  to  unpack, 
working  with  such  vigour  that  one  might  have  thought 
they  were  doing  it  for  a  wager. 

Two  men  unpack  a  mule  together.  They  first  throw 
over  his  head  a  broad  leathern  belt,  which  hangs  over 
his  eyes  to  blind  him  and  keep  him  quiet ;  then,  one 
man  standing  on  each  side,  they  cast  off  the  numerous 
hide  ropes  with  which  the  cargo  is  secured ;  and  when 
all  is  cast  loose,  each  man  removes  his  half  of  the 
cargo  and  places  it  on  the  ground.  Another  mule  is 
then  led  up  to  the  same  spot,  and  unpacked  in  like 
manner  ;  the  cargo  being  all  ranged  along  the  ground 
in  a  row,  and  presenting  a  very  miscellaneous  assort- 
ment of  sacks  of  flour,  barrels  of  pork  or  brandy,  bags 
of  sugar,  boxes  of  tobacco,  and  all  sorts  of  groceries 
and  other  articles.  When  all  the  cargoes  have  been 
unpacked,  they  then  take  off  the  aparejos,  or  large 
Mexican  pack-saddles,  examining  the  back  of  each 
mule  to  see  if  it  is  galled.  The  pack-saddles  are  all  set 
down  in  a  row  parallel  with  the  cargo,  the  girth  and 
saddle-cloth  of  each  being  neatly  folded  and  laid  on 
the  top  of  it.  The  place  where  the  mules  have  been 
unpacked,  between  the  saddles  and  the  cargo,  is 
covered  with  quantities  of  raw-hide  ropes  and  other 
lashings,  which  are  all  coiled  up  and  stowed  away  in 
a  heap  by  themselves. 

198  THE  "BELL-HORSE." 

Every  mule,  as  his  saddle  is  taken  off,  refreshes 
himself  by  rolling  about  in  the  dust ;  and  when  all  are 
unsaddled,  the  bell-horse  is  led  away  to  water.  The 
mules  all  follow  him,  and  are  left  to  their  own  de- 
vices till  morning. 

The  bell-horse  of  a  train  of  mules  is  a  very  curious 
institution.  He  is  generally  an  old  white  horse,  with 
a  small  bell  hung  round  his  neck.  He  carries  no 
cargo,  but  leads  the  van  in  tow  of  a  Mexican.  The 
mules  will  follow  him  through  thick  and  thin,  but 
without  him  they  will  not  move  a  step. 

In  the  morning  the  mules  are  hunted  up  and  driven 
into  camp,  when  they  are  tied  together  in  a  row 
behind  their  pack-saddles,  and  brought  round  one  by 
one  to  be  saddled  and  packed.  To  pack  a  mule  well, 
considerable  art  is  necessary.  His  load  must  be  so 
divided  that  there  is  an  equal  weight  on  each  side, 
else  the  mule  works  at  great  disadvantage.  If  his  load 
is  not  nicely  balanced  and  tightly  secured,  he  cannot 
so  well  pick  his  way  along  the  steep  mountain  trails, 
and,  as  not  unfrequently  happens,  topples  over  and 
rolls  down  to  some  place  from  which  no  mule  returns. 



I  ARRIVED  about  dusk  at  a  ranch  called  the  "  Grass 
Valley  House,"  situated  in  a  forest  of  pines.  It  was 
a  clapboard  house,  built  round  an  old  log-cabin  which 
formed  one  corner  of  the  building,  and  was  now  the 
private  apartment  of  the  landlord  and  his  wife.  I 
was  here  only  six  miles  from  Foster's  Bar,  and  set  out 
for  that  place  in  the  morning ;  but  I  made  a  mistake 
somewhere,  and  followed  a  wrong  trail,  which  led  me 
to  a  river,  after  walking  six  or  seven  miles  without 
meeting  any  one  of  whom  I  could  ascertain  whether 
I  was  going  right  or  not.  The  descent  to  the  river 
was  very  steep,  and  as  I  went  down  I  had  misgivings 
that  I  was  all  wrong,  and  should  have  to  come  up 
again,  but  I  expected  at  least  to  find  some  one  there 
who  could  put  me  right.  After  scrambling  down  the 

200  A   HARD    ROAD    TO    TRAVEL. 

best  way  I  could,  and  reaching  the  river,  I  was  dis- 
appointed to  find  nothing  but  the  remains  of  an  old 
tent ;  there  was  not  even  a  sign  of  any  work  having 
been  done  there.  The  river  flowed  among  huge 
masses  of  rock,  from  which  the  banks  rose  so  steep 
and  rugged,  that  to  follow  the  course  of  the  stream 
seemed  out  of  the  question.  I  thought,  however, 
that  I  could  distinguish  marks  here  and  there  on  the 
rocks,  as  if  caused  by  travelling  over  them,  and  these 
I  followed  with  considerable  difficulty  for  about  half 
a  mile,  when  they  stopped  at  a  place  where  the  black- 
ened rocks,  the  remains  of  burned  wood,  and  a  lot  of 
old  sardine-boxes,  showed  that  some  one  had  been 
camped.  Here  I  fancied  I  could  make  out  a  trail 
going  straight  up  the  face  of  the  hill,  on  the  same 
side  of  the  river  by  which  I  had  come  down.  It 
looked  a  hard  road  to  travel,  but  I  preferred  trying 
it  to  retracing  my  steps,  especially  as  I  judged  it 
would  be  a  shorter  way  back  to  the  house  I  had 
started  from. 

I  got  on  very  well  for  a  short  distance,  but  very 
soon  lost  all  sign  of  a  trail.  I  was  determined,  how- 
ever, to  make  my  way  up,  which  I  did  by  dint  of 
catching  hold  of  branches  of  trees  and  bushes ;  and  on 
my  hands  I  had  to  place  my  greatest  dependence,  for 
the  loose  soil  was  covered  with  large  stones,  which 
gave  way  under  my  feet,  and  which  I  could  hear 
rolling  down  far  below  me.  Sometimes  I  came  to  a 
bare  face  of  rock,  up  which  I  had  to  work  my  passage 
by  means  of  the  crevices  and  projecting  ledges.  It 


was  useless  to  consider  whether  more  formidable 
obstacles  were  still  before  me;  my  only  chance  was 
to  go  ahead,  for  if  I  had  attempted  to  go  down 
again,  I  should  have  found  the  descent  rather  too  easy, 
and  probably  have  broken  my  neck.  It  was  dread- 
fully hot,  and  I  was  carrying  my  blankets  slung  over 
my  shoulder,  which,  catching  on  trees  and  rocks, 
impeded  my  progress  considerably ;  and  though  I  was 
in  pretty  good  condition  for  this  sort  of  work,  I  had 
several  times  to  get  astride  of  a  tree  and  take  a 

At  last,  after  a  great  deal  of  scrambling  and  climb- 
ing, my  shins  barked,  my  clothes  nearly  torn  off  my 
back,  and  my  eyes  half  scratched  out  by  the  bushes, 
completely  blown,  and  suffocated  with  the  heat,  I 
arrived  at  a  place  where  I  considered  that  I  had  got 
over  the  worst  of  it,  as  the  ascent  seemed  to  become 
a  little  more  practicable.  I  was  dying  of  thirst,  and 
would  have  given  a  very  long  price  for  a  drink  of 
water ;  but  the  nearest  water  I  expected  to  find  was 
at  a  spring  about  five  miles  off,  which  I  had  passed 
in  the  morning.  I  could  not  help  thinking  what  a 
delightful  thing  a  quart  pot  of  Bass's  pale  ale  would 
be,  with  a  lump  of  ice  in  it ;  then  I  thought  I  would 
prefer  a  sherry  cobbler,  but  I  could  not  drink  that 
fast  enough ;  and  then  it  seemed  that  a  quart  pot  of 
ale  would  not  be  enough,  that  I  would  like  to  drink 
it  out  of  a  bucket.  I  quaffed  in  imagination  gigantic 
goblets,  one  after  another,  of  all  sorts  of  delicious 
fluids,  but  none  of  them  did  me  any  good  ;  and  so  I 


concluded  that  I  had  better  think  of  something  else 
till  I  reached  the  spring. 

The  rest  of  the  mountain  was  not  very  hard  travel- 
ling, and  when  once  on  the  top  of  the  range,  I  struck 
off  in  a  direction  which  I  thought  would  hit  my  old 
trail.  I  very  soon  got  on  to  it,  and  after  half  an 
hour's  walking,  I  found  the  spring,  where,  as  the  Mis- 
sourians  say,  "you  may  just  bet  your  life,"  I  did 

It  was  about  three  o'clock,  and  I  thought  my  safest 
plan  was  to  return  to  the  house  I  had  started  from 
in  the  morning,  about  six  miles  off,  where,  on  my 
arrival,  I  learned  that  I  had  been  misled  by  an  Indian 
trail,  and  had  travelled  far  out  of  the  right  direction. 
It  was  too  late  to  make  a  fresh  start  that  day,  so  I 
was  doomed  to  pass  another  night  here,  and  in  the 
evening  amused  myself  by  sketching  a  train  of  pack- 
mules  which  had  camped  near  the  house. 

I  was  just  setting  off  in  the  morning,  when  two  or 
three  men,  who  had  seen  me  sketching  the  evening 
before,  came  and  asked  me  to  take  their  likenesses  for 
them.  As  they  were  very  anxious  about  it,  I  made 
them  sit  down,  and  very  soon  polished  them  all  off, 
improving  so  much  on  their  personal  appearance,  that 
they  evidently  had  no  idea  before  that  they  were  such 
good-looking  fellows,  and  expressed  themselves  highly 
satisfied.  As  I  was  finishing  the  last  one,  an  old 
fellow  came  in,  who,  seeing  what  was  up,  was  seized 
with  a  violent  desire  to  have  his  sweet  countenance 
"  pictur'd  off"  likewise,  to  send  to  his  wife.  It  struck 


me  that  his  wife  must  be  a  woman  of  singular  taste 
if  she  ever  wished  to  see  his  face  again.  He  was  just 
about  the  ugliest  man  I  ever  saw  in  my  life.  He 
wanted  to  comb  his  hair,  poor  fellow,  and  make  him- 
self look  as  presentable  as  possible  ;  but  I  had  no 
mercy  on  him,  and,  making  him  sit  down  as  he  was, 
I  did  my  best  to  represent  him  about  fifty  per  cent 
uglier  than  he  really  was.  He  was  in  great  distress 
that  he  had  not  better  clothes  on  for  the  occasion ; 
so,  to  make  up  for  caricaturing  his  features,  I  im- 
proved his  costume,  and  gave  him  a  very  spicy  black 
coat,  black  satin  waistcoat,  and  very  stiff  stand-up 
collars.  The  fidelity  of  the  likeness  he  never  doubted, 
being  so  lost  in  admiration  of  his  dress,  that  he  seemed 
to  think  the  face  a  matter  of  minor  importance  alto- 

I  did  not  take  many  portraits  in  the  mines  ;  but, 
from  what  little  experience  I  had,  I  invariably  found 
that  men  of  a  lower  class  wanted  to  be  shown  in  the 
ordinary  costume  of  the  nineteenth  century — that  is 
to  say,  in  a  coat,  waistcoat,  white  shirt  and  neckcloth ; 
while  gentlemen  miners  were  anxious  to  appear  in 
character,  in  the  most  ragged  style  of  California  dress. 

I  went  to  Foster's  Bar  after  dinner  with  a  man 
who  was  on  his  way  there  from  Downieville,  a  town 
about  thirty  miles  up  the  river.  He  told  me  that  he 
and  his  partner  had  gone  there  a  few  months  before, 
and  had  worked  together  for  some  time,  when  they 
separated,  his  partner  joining  a  company  which  had 
averaged  a  hundred  dollars  a-day  to  each  man  ever 


since,  while  my  friend  had  bought  a  share  in  another 
company,  and,  after  working  hard  for  six  weeks,  had 
not,  as  he  expressed  it,  made  enough  to  pay  for  his 
grub.  Such  is  mining. 

Foster's  Bar  is  a  place  about  half  a  mile  long,  with 
the  appearance  of  having  slipped  down  off  the  face  of 
the  mountains,  and  thus  formed  a  flat  along  the  side 
of  the  river.  The  village  or  camp  consisted  of  a  few 
huts  and  cabins ;  and  all  around  on  the  rocks,  wherever 
it  suited  their  convenience,  were  parties  of  miners 
camping  out. 

I  could  only  see  one  place  which  purported  to  be  a 
hotel,  and  to  it  I  went.  It  was  a  large  canvass-house, 
the  front  part  of  which  was  the  bar-room,  and  behind 
it  the  dining-room.  Alongside  of  the  former  an  addi- 
tion had  been  made  as  a  sleeping-apartment,  and  here, 
when  I  felt  inclined  to  turn  in  about  ten  o'clock,  I 
was  accommodated  with  a  cot. 

A  gambling-room  in  San  Francisco  is  a  tolerably 
quiet  place,  where  little  else  is  heard  but  good  music 
or  the  chinking  of  dollars,  and  where,  if  it  were  neces- 
sary, one  could  sleep  comfortably  enough.  But  a 
gambling-room  in  a  small  camp  in  the  mines  is  a  very 
different  affair.  There  not  so  much  ceremony  is 
observed,  and  the  company  are  rather  more  apt  to 
devote  themselves  to  the  social  enjoyment  of  drink- 
ing, quarrelling,  and  kicking  up  a  row  generally.  In 
this  instance  the  uproar  beat  all  my  previous  expe- 
rience, and  sleeping  was  out  of  the  question.  The 
bar-room,  I  found,  was  also  the  gambling-room  of  the 

CAMPING   OUT.  205 

diggings.  Four  or  five  monte  tables  were  in  full  blast, 
and  the  room  was  crowded  with  all  the  rowdies  of  the 
place.  As  the  night  wore  on  and  the  brandy  began 
to  tell,  they  seemed  to  be  having  a  general  fight,  and 
I  half  expected  to  see  some  of  them  pitched  through 
the  canvass  into  the  sleeping  apartment ;  or  perhaps 
pistols  might  be  used,  in  which  case  I  should  have 
had  as  good  a  chance  of  being  shot  as  any  one  else. 

I  managed  to  drop  off  asleep  during  a  lull  in  the 
storm ;  but  when  I  awoke  at  daylight,  it  was  only 
then  finally  subsiding.  I  found  that  some  man  had 
broken  a  monte  bank,  and,  on  the  strength  of  his  good 
fortune,  had  been  treating  the  company  to  an  unli- 
mited supply  of  brandy  all  night,  which  fully  account- 
ed for  the  row ;  but  I  did  not  fancy  such  sleeping- 
quarters,  and  made  up  my  mind  to  camp  out  while  I 
remained  in  those  diggings. 

I  selected  a  very  pretty  spot  at  the  foot  of  a  ravine, 
in  which  was  a  stream  of  water;  and,  buying  a  tin 
coffee-pot  and  some  tea  and  sugar,  I  was  completely 
set  up.  There  was  a  baker  and  butcher  in  the  camp, 
so  I  had  very  little  trouble  in  my  cooking  arrange- 
ments, having  merely  to  boil  my  pot,  and  then  raking 
down  the  fire  with  my  foot,  lay  a  steak  on  the  embers. 

The  weather  was  very  hot  and  dry;  but  it  was 
getting  late  in  the  season,  and  I  generally  awoke  in 
the  morning  like  the  flowers  the  Irishman  sings  about 
to  Molly  Bawn,  "  with  their  rosy  faces  wet  with  dew." 
At  least  as  far  as  the  dew  is  concerned — for  a  rosy  face 
is  a  thing  not  seen  in  the  mines,  the  usual  colour  of 

206  A   BED   OF  DAHLIAS. 

men's  faces  being  a  good  standard  leathery  hue,  a  very 
little  lighter  than  that  of  a  penny-piece — all  rosiness 
of  cheek,  where  it  ever  existed,  is  driven  out  by  the 
hot  sun  and  dry  atmosphere. 

I  found  camping  out  a  very  pleasant  way  of  living. 
With  my  blankets  I  made  a  first-rate  awning  during 
the  day ;  and  if  I  could  not  boast  of  a  bed  of  roses,  I 
at  least  had  one  of  dahlias,  for  numbers  of  large  flowers 
of  that  species  grew  in  great  profusion  all  round  my 
camp,  and  these  I  was  so  luxurious  as  to  pluck  and 
strew  thickly  on  the  spot  where  I  intended  to  sleep. 

I  remained  here  for  about  three  weeks ;  and  for  two 
or  three  mornings  before  I  left,  I  woke  finding  my 
blankets  quite  white  with  frost.  On  such  occasions 
I  was  more  active  than  usual  in  lighting  my  fire  and 
getting  my  coffee-pot  under  a  full  head  of  steam;  but 
as  soon  as  ever  the  sun  was  up,  the  frost  was  imme- 
diately dispelled,  and  half  an  hour  after  sunrise  one 
was  glad  to  get  into  the  shade. 

On  leaving  Foster's  Bar,  I  went  to  a  place  a  few 
miles  up  the  river,  where  some  miners  were  at  work, 
who  had  asked  me  to  visit  their  camp.  The  river 
here  flowed  through  a  narrow  rocky  gorge  (a  sort  of 
place  which,  in  California,  is  called  by  its  Spanish 
name  a  "  canon"),  and  was  flumed  for  a  distance  of 
nearly  half  a  mile  ;  that  is  to  say,  it  was  carried  past 
in  an  aqueduct  supported  on  uprights,  being  raised 
from  its  natural  bed,  which  was  thus  laid  bare  and 
rendered  capable  of  being  worked.  It  was  late  when 
I  arrived,  and  the  party  of  miners  had  just  stopped 

A   CAMP   ON   THE   YUBA.  207 

work  for  the  day.  Some  were  taking  off  their  wet 
boots,  and  washing  their  faces  in  the  river;  others 
were  lighting  their  pipes  or  cutting  up  tobacco  ;  and 
the  rest  were  collected  round  the  fire,  making  bets  as 
to  the  quantity  of  gold  which  was  being  dried  in  an 
old  frying-pan.  This  was  the  result  of  their  day's 
work,  and  weighed  four  or  five  pounds.  The  banks 
of  the  river  were  so  rough  and  precipitous  that,  for 
want  of  any  level  space  on  which  to  camp,  they  had 
been  obliged  to  raise  a  platform  of  stone  and  gravel. 
On  this  stood  a  tent  about  twenty  feet  long,  which 
was  strewed  inside  with  blankets,  boots,  hats,  old 
newspapers,  and  such  articles.  In  front  of  the  tent 
was  a  long  rough  table,  on  each  side  of  which  a  young 
pine-tree,  with  two  or  three  legs  stuck  into  it  here  and 
there,  did  duty  as  a  bench,  some  of  the  bark  having 
been  chipped  off  the  top  side,  by  way  of  making  it  an 
easy  seat.  At  the  foot  of  the  rocks,  close  to  the  table, 
an  immense  fire  was  blazing,  presided  over  by  a  darky, 
who  was  busy  preparing  supper;  for  where  so  many 
men  messed  together,  it  was  economy  to  have  a  pro- 
fessional cook,  though  his  wages  were  frequently  higher 
than  those  paid  to  a  miner.  A  quarter  of  beef  hung 
from  the  limb  of  a  tree ;  and  stowed  away,  in  beautiful 
confusion,  among  the  nooks  and  crannies  of  the  rocks, 
were  sacks,  casks,  and  boxes  containing  various  articles 
of  provisions. 

Within  a  few  feet  of  us,  and  above  the  level  of  the 
camp,  the  river  rushed  past  in  its  wooden  bed,  spin- 
ning round,  as  it  went,  a  large  water-wheel,  by  means 


of  which  a  constant  stream  of  water  was  pumped  up 
from  the  diggings  and  carried  off  in  the  flume.  The 
company  consisted  of  eight  members.  They  were  all 
New  Yorkers,  and  had  been  brought  up  to  professional 
and  mercantile  pursuits.  The  rest  of  the  party  were 
their  hired  men,  who,  however,  were  upon  a  perfect 
social  equality  with  their  employers. 

When  it  was  time  to  turn  in,  I  was  shown  a  space 
on  the  gravelly  floor  of  the  tent,  about  six  feet  by 
one  and  a  half,  where  I  might  stretch  out  and  dream 
that  I  dwelt  in  marble  halls.  About  a  dozen  men  slept 
in  the  tent,  the  others  lying  outside  on  the  rocks. 

My  intention  was  from  this  camp  to  go  on  to  Downie- 
ville,  about  forty  miles  up  the  river ;  but  I  had  first  to 
return  to  Foster's  Bar  for  some  drawing-paper  which 
I  had  ordered  from  Sacramento. 

On  my  way  I  passed  a  most  romantic  little  bridge, 
formed  by  two  pine  trees,  which  had  been  felled  so  as 
to  span  a  deep  and  thickly  wooded  ravine.  I  sat 
down  among  the  bushes  a  short  distance  off  the  trail, 
and  was  making  a  sketch  of  the  place,  when  presently 
a  man  came  along  riding  on  a  mule.  I  was  quite  aware 
that  I  should  have  a  very  suspicious  appearance  to  a 
passer-by,  and  I  was  in  hopes  he  might  not  observe  me. 
I  had  no  object  in  speaking  to  him,  especially  as,  had 
I  hailed  him  from  my  ambuscade,  he  might  have  been 
apt  to  reply  with  his  revolver. 

Just  as  he  was  passing,  however,  and  when  all  I 
could  see  of  him  was  his  head  and  shoulders,  his  eyes 
wandered  over  the  bank  at  the  side  of  the  trail,  and 

A   GOOD   SHOT.  209 

he  caught  sight  of  my  head  looking  down  on  him  over 
the  tops  of  the  bushes.  He  gave  a  start,  as  I  expected 
he  would,  and  addressed  me  with  "  Good  morning, 
Colonel."  My  promotion  to  the  rank  of  colonel  I 
most  probably  owed  to  the  fact  that  he  thought  it 
advisable,  under  the  circumstances,  to  be  as  concilia- 
tory as  possible  until  he  knew  my  intentions.  I  saw 
a  good  deal  of  the  same  man  afterwards,  but  he  never 
again  raised  me  above  the  rank  of  captain.  I  replied 
to  his  salutation,  and  he  then  asked  the  very  natural 
question,  "What  are  ye  a-doin  of  over  there  1"  I 
gave  an  account  of  myself,  which  he  did  not  seem  to 
think  altogether  satisfactory,  but,  after  making  some 
remark  on  the  weather,  he  passed  on. 

About  an  hour  later,  when  I  arrived  at  Foster's 
Bar,  I  found  him  sitting  in  a  store  with  some  half- 
dozen  miners,  to  whom  he  had  been  recounting  how 
he  had  seen  a  man  concealed  in  the  bushes  off  the 
trail.  He  expressed  himself  as  having  been  "  awful 
skeered,"  and  said  that  he  had  his  pistol  out,  and  was 
thinking  of  shooting  all  the  time  he  was  speaking  to 
me.  I  told  him  I  had  mine  lying  by  my  side,  and 
would  have  returned  the  compliment,  when,  by  way 
of  showing  me  what  sort  of  a  chance  I  should  have 
stood,  he  stuck  up  a  card  on  a  tree  at  about  twenty 
paces,  and  put  six  balls  into  it  one  after  another  out 
of  his  heavy  navy  revolver.  I  confessed  I  could  not 
beat  such  shooting  as  that,  and  was  very  well  pleased 
that  he  had  not  taken  it  into  his  head  to  make  a 

target  of  me. 



It  seemed  that  lie  was  an  express  carrier,  and  as 
his  partner  had  been  robbed  but  a  few  days  before, 
very  near  the  place  of  our  meeting,  his  suspicions  of 
me  were  not  at  all  unreasonable. 

I  was  very  desirous  of  seeing  a  friend  of  mine  who 
was  mining  at  a  place  about  twenty  miles  off,  so, 
having  hired  a  mule  for  the  journey,  I  set  off  early 
next  morning,  intending  to  return  the  same  night. 
My  way  was  through  a  part  of  the  country  very 
little  travelled,  and  the  trails  were  consequently  very 
indistinct,  but  I  got  full  directions  how  to  find  my 
way,  where  to  leave  the  main  trail,  which  side  to 
take  at  a  place  where  the  trail  forked,  where  I  should 
cross  another,  and  so  on  ;  also  where  I  should  pass  an 
old  cabin,  a  forked  pine-tree,  and  other  objects,  by 
which  I  might  know  that  I  was  on  the  right  road. 

The  man  who  gave  me  my  directions  said  he  hardly 
expected  that  I  would  be  able  to  keep  the  right  trail. 
I  had  some  doubts  about  it  myself,  but  I  was  deter- 
mined to  try  at  all  events,  and  for  seven  or  eight 
miles  I  got  along  very  well,  knowing  I  was  right  by 
the  landmarks  which  I  had  passed. 

The  numbers  of  Indian  trails,  however,  branching 
off  to  right  and  left  were  very  confusing,  being  not 
a  bit  less  indistinct  than  the  trail  I  was  endea- 
vouring to  follow.  At  last  I  felt  certain  that  I  had 
gone  wrong,  but  as  I  fancied  I  was  not  going  far 
out  of  the  right  direction,  I  kept  on,  and  shortly 
afterwards  came  upon  a  small  camp  called  Toole's 
Diggings.  I  was  told  here  that  I  had  only  come  five 

AN    INDIAN   CAMP.  211 

miles  out  of  my  way ;  and  after  dining  and  getting  some 
fresh  directions,  I  set  out  again.  Having  ridden  for 
nearly  an  hour,  I  came  to  an  Indian  camp,  situated  by 
the  side  of  a  small  stream  in  a  very  dense  part  of  the 
forest.  At  first  I  could  see  no  one  but  some  children 
amusing  themselves  with  a  swing  hung  from  a  branch 
of  an  oak  tree,  but  as  I  was  going  past,  a  number  of 
Indians  came  running  out  from  their  brush  huts. 
They  were  friendly  Indians,  and  had  picked  up  a  few 
words  of  English  from  loafing  about  the  camps  of  the 
miners.  The  usual  style  of  salutation  to  them  is, 
"  How  d'ye  do?"  to  which  they  reply  in  the  same 
words ;  but  if  you  repeat  the  question,  as  if  you  really 
wanted  to  know  the  state  of  their  health,  they  invari- 
ably answer  "  fuss-rate."  Accordingly,  having  ascer- 
tained that  they  were  all  "  fuss-rate/'  I  mixed  up  a 
little  broken  English,  some  mongrel  Spanish,  and  a 
word  or  two  of  Indian,  and  made  inquiries  as  to  my 
way.  In  much  the  same  sort  of  language  they 
directed  me  how  to  go  ;  and  though  they  seemed  dis- 
posed to  prolong  the  conversation,  I  very  quickly 
bade  them  adieu  and  moved  on,  not  being  at  all 
partial  to  such  company. 

I  followed  the  dim  trail  up  hill  and  down  dale  for 
several  hours  without  seeing  a  human  being,  and  I 
felt  quite  satisfied  that  I  was  again  off  my  road,  but 
I  pushed  on  in  hopes  of  reaching  some  sort  of  habita- 
tion before  dark.  At  last,  in  travelling  up  the  side 
of  a  small  creek,  just  as  the  sun  was  taking  leave  of 
us,  I  caught  sight  of  a  log-cabin  among  the  pine- 

212  A   MUSICAL   PARTY. 

trees.  It  seemed  to  have  been  quite  recently  built, 
so  I  was  pretty  sure  it  was  inhabited,  and  on  riding 
up  I  found  two  men  in  it,  from  whom  I  learned  that 
I  was  still  five  miles  from  my  destination.  They 
recommended  me  to  stop  the  night  with  them,  as  it 
was  nearly  dark,  and  the  trail  was  hard  enough  to  find 
by  daylight. 

I  saw  no  help  for  it ;  so,  after  staking  out  the  mule 
where  he  could  pick  some  green  stuff,  I  joined  my 
hosts,  who  were  just  sitting  down  to  supper.  It  was 
not  a  very  elaborate  affair — nothing  but  tea  and  ham. 
They  apologised  for  the  meagreness  of  the  turn-out, 
and  especially  for  the  want  of  bread,  saying  that  they 
had  been  away  for  a  couple  of  days,  and  on  their 
return  found  that  the  Indians  had  taken  the  oppor- 
tunity to  steal  all  their  flour. 

We  made  the  most  of  what  we  had,  however,  and 
putting  a  huge  log  on  the  fire,  we  lighted  our  pipes, 
and  my  entertainers,  producing  two  violins,  favoured 
me  with  a  selection  of  Nigger  melodies. 

They  had  been  mining  lately  at  the  place  which  I 
had  been  trying  to  reach  all  day,  and  in  the  course  of 
conversation  I  found  that  I  had  had  all  my  trouble  for 
nothing,  as  the  man  whom  I  was  in  search  of  had  a 
few  days  before  left  the  diggings  for  San  Francisco. 

The  next  morning  I  returned  to  Foster's  Bar,  my 
friends  putting  me  on  a  much  shorter  trail  than  the 
roundabout  road  I  had  travelled  the  day  before. 



FEOM  Foster's  Bar  I  set  out  for  Downieville. 

On  leaving  the  river,  I  had  as  usual  a  long  hill 
to  climb,  but  once  on  the  top,  the  trail  followed  the 
backbone  of  the  ridge,  and  was  comparatively  easy 
to  travel.  It  was  the  main  "  pack-trail"  to  Downie- 
ville, and,  being  travelled  by  all  the  trains  of  pack- 
mules,  was  nearly  ankle-deep  in  dust.  The  soil  of 
the  California  mountains  is  generally  very  red  and 
sterile,  and  has  the  property  of  being  easily  con- 
verted into  exceedingly  fine  dust,  as  red  as  brick- 
dust,  or  into  equally  fine  mud,  according  to  the 
season  of  the  year.  At  the  end  of  a  day's  journey 
in  summer,  the  colour  of  a  man's  face  is  hardly 
discernible  through  the  thick  coating  of  dust,  which 
makes  him  look  more  like  a  red  Indian  than  a  white 

The  scenery  was  very  beautiful.  The  pine-trees 
were  not  too  numerous  to  interrupt  the  view,  and 

214  SCENERY. 

the  ridge  was  occasionally  so  narrow  that,  on  either 
hand,  looking  over  the  tops  of  the  trees  down  below, 
there  was  a  vast  panorama  of  pine-clad  mountains, 
on  one  side  gradually  diminishing,  till,  at  a  distance 
of  forty  or  fifty  miles,  they  merged  imperceptibly 
into  the  plains,  which,  with  the  hazy  heated  atmos- 
phere upon  them,  looked  like  a  calm  ocean  ;  while, 
on  the  other  side,  one  mountain -ridge  appeared 
above  another,  more  barren  as  they  became  more 
lofty,  till  at  last  they  faded  away  into  a  few  hardly 
discernible  snowy  peaks.  It  was  a  pleasing  change 
when  sometimes  a  break  occurred  in  the  ridge,  and 
the  trail  dipped  into  a  dark  shady  hollow,  and,  wind- 
ing its  way  through  the  dense  mass  of  underwood, 
crossed  a  little  stream  of  water,  and,  leading  up  the 
opposite  bank,  gained  once  more  the  open  ground  on 
the  summit.  I  travelled  about  fifteen  miles  without 
meeting  any  one,  and  arrived  at  Slate  Kange  House, 
a  solitary  cabin,  so  called  from  being  situated  at  the 
spot  where  one  begins  to  descend  to  Slate  Eange,  a 
place  where  the  banks  of  the  river  are  composed  of 
huge  masses  of  slate.  I  dined  here,  and  shortly 
afterwards  overtook  a  little  Englishman,  whose  Eng- 
lish accent  sounded  very  refreshing.  He  had  been 
in  the  country  since  before  the  existence  of  gold  was 
discovered  ;  but  from  his  own  account  he  did  not 
seem  to  have  profited  much  in  his  gold-hunting 
exploits  from  having  had  such  a  good  start. 

I  stopped  all  night  at  Oak  Valley,  a  small  camp, 
consisting  of  three  cabins  and  a  hotel,  and  in  the 

THE    "NIGGER   TENT/'  215 

morning  I  resumed  my  journey  in  company  with 
two  miners,  who  had  a  pack-horse  loaded  with  their 
mining-tools,  their  pots  and  pans,  their  blankets,  and 
all  the  rest  of  it.  The  horse,  however,  did  not  seem 
to  approve  of  the  arrangement,  for,  after  having  gone 
about  a  couple  of  miles,  he  wheeled  round,  and  set  off 
back  again  through  the  woods  as  hard  as  he  could 
split,  the  pots  and  pans  banging  against  his  ribs, 
and  making  a  fearful  clatter.  My  companions 
started  in  chase  of  their  goods  and  chattels  ;  but 
thinking  the  pair  of  them  quite  a  match  for  the 
old  horse,  and  not  caring  how  the  race  turned  out, 
I  left  them  to  settle  it  among  themselves,  and  went 
on  my  way. 

I  met  several  trains  of  pack-mules,  the  jingling  of 
the  bell  on  the  bell-horse,  and  the  shouts  of  the 
Mexican  muleteers,  generally  announcing  their  ap- 
proach before  they  come  in  sight.  They  were  re- 
turning to  Marysville  ;  and  as  they  have  no  cargo  to 
bring  down  from  the  mines,  the  mules  were  jogging 
along  very  cheerily  :  when  loaded,  they  relieve  their 
feelings  by  grunting  and  groaning  at  every  step. 

The  next  place  I  came  to  was  a  ranch  called  the 
"  Nigger  Tent."  It  was  originally  a  small  tent,  kept 
by  an  enterprising  Nigger  for  the  accommodation  of 
travellers ;  but  as  his  fortunes  prospered,  he  had  built 
a  very  comfortable  cabin,  which,  however,  retained 
the  name  of  the  old  establishment. 

In  the  afternoon  I  arrived  at  the  place  where  the 
trail  leaves  the  summit  of  the  range,  and  commences 


to  wind  down  the  steep  face  of  the  mountain  to 
Downieville.  There  was  a  ranch  and  a  spring  of 
deliciously  cold  water,  which  was  very  acceptable,  as 
the  last  ten  miles  of  my  journey  had  been  up  hill 
nearly  all  the  way,  and  the  heat  was  intense,  but  not 
a  drop  of  water  was  to  be  found  on  the  road. 

I  overtook  two  or  three  miners  on  their  way  to 
Downieville,  and  went  on  in  company  with  them. 
As  we  descended,  we  got  an  occasional  view  be- 
tween the  pine-trees  of  the  little  town  far  down 
below  us,  so  completely  surrounded  by  mountains 
that  it  seemed  to  be  at  the  bottom  of  an  immense 
hole  in  the  ground. 

I  had  heard  so  much  of  Downieville,  that  on 
reaching  the  foot  of  the  mountain  I  was  rather  dis- 
appointed at  first  to  find  it  apparently  so  small  a 
place,  but  I  very  soon  discovered  that  there  was  a 
great  deal  compressed  into  a  small  compass.  There 
was  only  one  street  in  the  town,  which  was  three  or 
four  hundred  yards  long ;  indeed,  the  mountain  at 
whose  base  it  stood  was  so  steep  that  there  was  not 
room  for  more  than  one  street  between  it  and  the 

This  was  the  depot,  however,  for  the  supplies  of  a 
very  large  mining  population.  All  the  miners  within 
eight  or  ten  miles  depended  on  Downieville  for  their 
provisions,  and  the  street  was  consequently  always  a 
scene  of  bustle  and  activity,  being  crowded  with  trains 
of  pack-mules  and  their  Mexican  drivers. 

The  houses  were  nearly  all  of  wood,  many  of  them 


well-finished  two-storey  houses,  with  columns  and 
verandahs  in  front.  The  most  prominent  places  in 
the  town  were  of  course  the  gambling  saloons,  fitted 
up  in  the  usual  style  of  showy  extravagance,  with  the 
exception  of  the  mirrors  ;  for  as  everything  had  to  be 
brought  seventy  or  eighty  miles  over  the  mountains 
on  the  backs  of  mules,  very  large  mirrors  were  a 
luxury  hardly  attainable  ;  an  extra  number  of  smaller 
ones,  however,  made  up  for  the  deficiency.  There 
were  several  very  good  hotels,  and  two  or  three  French 
restaurants  ;  the  other  houses  in  the  town  were  nearly 
all  stores,  the  mining  population  living  in  tents  and 
cabins,  all  up  and  down  the  river. 

I  put  up  at  a  French  house,  which  was  kept  in  very- 
good  style  by  a  pretty  little  Frenchwoman,  and  had 
quite  the  air  of  being  a  civilised  place.  I  was  accom- 
modated with  half  of  a  bedroom,  in  which  there  was 
hardly  room  to  turn  round  between  the  two  beds;  but 
I  was  so  accustomed  to  rolling  myself  in  my  blankets 
and  sleeping  on  the  ground,  or  on  the  rocks,  or  at  best 
being  stowed  away  on  a  shelf  with  twenty  or  thirty 
other  men  in  a  large  room,  that  it  seemed  to  me  most 
luxurious  quarters.  The  salle  a  manger  was  under- 
neath me,  and  as  the  floor  was  very  thin,  I  had  the 
full  benefit  of  all  the  conversation  of  those  who  in- 
dulged in  late  suppers,  whilst  next  door  was  a  ten-pin 
alley,  in  which  they  were  banging  away  at  the  pins 
all  night  long;  but  such  trifles  did  not  much  dis- 
turb my  slumbers. 

There  was  no  lack  of  public  amusements  in  the 


town.  The  same  company  which  I  had  heard  in 
Nevada  were  performing  in  a  very  comfortable  little 
theatre — not  a  very  highly  decorated  house,  but  laid 
out  in  the  orthodox  fashion,  with  boxes,  pit,  and  gal- 
lery— and  a  company  of  American  glee-singers,  who 
had  been  concertising  with  great  success  in  the  various 
mining  towns,  were  giving  concerts  in  a  large  room 
devoted  to  such  purposes.  Their  selection  of  songs 
was  of  a  decidedly  national  character,  and  a  lady,  one 
of  their  party,  had  won  the  hearts  of  all  the  miners 
by  singing  very  sweetly  a  number  of  old  familiar 
ballads,  which  touched  the  feelings  of  the  expatriated 

I  was  present  at  their  concert  one  night,  when,  at 
the  close  of  the  performance,  a  rough  old  miner  stood 
up  on  his  seat  in  the  middle  of  the  room,  and  after  a 
few  preliminary  coughs,  delivered  himself  of  a  very 
elaborate  speech,  in  which,  on  behalf  of  the  miners  of 
Downieville,  he  begged  to  express  to  the  lady  their 
great  admiration  of  her  vocal  talents,  and  in  token 
thereof  begged  her  acceptance  of  a  purse  containing 
500  dollars'  worth  of  gold  specimens.  Compliments 
of  this  sort,  which  the  Scotch  would  call  "  wiselike," 
and  which  the  fair  cantatrice  no  doubt  valued  as 
highly  as  showers  of  the  most  exquisite  bouquets,  had 
been  paid  to  her  in  most  of  the  towns  she  had  visited 
in  the  mines.  Some  enthusiastic  miners  had  even 
thrown  specimens  to  her  on  the  stage. 

Downieville  is  situated  at  what  is  called  the  Forks 
of  the  Yuba  Eiver,  and  the  town  itself  was  frequently 

THE   FORKS."  219 

spoken  of  as  "  The  Forks'7  in  that  part  of  the  country. 
It  may  be  necessary  to  explain  that,  in  talking  of 
the  forks  of  a  river  in  California,  one  is  always  sup- 
posed to  be  going  up  the  river  ;  the  forks  are  its 
tributaries.  The  main  rivers  received  their  names, 
which  they  still  retain,  from  the  Spaniards  and  In- 
dians ;  and  the  first  gold-hunting  pioneers,  in  explor- 
ing a  river,  when  they  came  to  a  tributary,  called  one 
branch  the  north,  and  the  other  the  south  fork.  When 
one  of  these  again  received  a  tributary,  it  either  con- 
tinued to  be  the  north  or  south  fork,  or  became  the 
middle  fork,  as  the  case  might  be. 

If  a  river  was  never  to  have  more  than  two  tribu- 
taries, this  would  do  very  well,  but  the  river  above 
Downieville  kept  on  forking  about  every  half-a-mile, 
and  the  branches  were  all  named  on  the  same  prin- 
ciple, so  that  there  were  half-a-dozen  north,  middle, 
and  south  forks. 

The  diggings  at  Downieville  were  very  extensive  ; 
for  many  miles  above  it  on  each  fork  there  were  num- 
bers of  miners  working  in  the  bed  and  the  banks  of 
the  river.  The  mountains  are  very  precipitous,  and 
the  only  communication  was  by  a  narrow  trail  which 
had  been  trodden  into  the  hillside,  and  crossed  from 
one  side  of  the  river  to  the  other,  as  either  happened 
to  be  more  practicable  ;  sometimes  following  the  rocky 
bed  of  the  river  itself,  and  occasionally  rising  over 
high  steep  bluffs,  where  it  required  a  steady  head  and 
a  sure  foot  to  get  along  in  safety. 

One  spot  in   particular  was  enough   to  try  the 


nerve  of  any  one  but  a  chamois -hunter.  It  was  a 
high  bluff,  almost  perpendicular,  round  which  the  river 
made  a  sweep,  and  the  only  possible  way  of  passing 
it  was  by  a  trail  about  eighty  feet  above  the  river. 
The  trail  hardly  deserved  the  name — it  was  merely  a 
succession  of  footsteps,  sometimes  a  few  inches  of  a 
projecting  rock,  or  a  root.  Two  men  could  pass  each 
other  with  difficulty,  and  only  at  certain  places,  by 
holding  on  to  each  other;  and  from  the  trail  to  the 
river  all  was  clear  and  smooth,  not  a  tree  or  a  bush 
to  save  one  if  he  happened  to  miss  his  footing.  At 
one  spot  there  was  an  indentation  in  the  precipice, 
where  the  rock  was  quite  perpendicular  :  to  get  over 
this  difficulty,  a  young  pine-tree  was  laid  across  by 
way  of  a  bridge ;  it  was  only  four  or  five  inches  in 
diameter,  and  lay  nearly  a  couple  of  feet  outside  of 
the  rock.  In  passing,  one  only  rested  one  foot  on 
the  tree,  and  with  the  other  took  advantage  of  the 
inequalities  in  the  face  of  the  rock  ;  while  looking 
down  to  see  where  to  put  one's  feet,  one  saw  far 
below,  between  his  outstretched  legs,  the  most  unin- 
viting jagged  rocks,  strongly  suggestive  of  sudden 

The  miners  had  given  this  place  the  name  of  Cape 
Horn.  Those  who  were  camped  on  the  river  above 
it,  were  so  used  to  it  that  they  passed  along  with  a 
hop,  step,  and  a  jump,  though  carrying  a  week's  provi- 
sions on  their  backs,  but  a  great  many  men  had  fallen 
over,  and  been  instantly  killed  on  the  rocks  below. 

The  last  victim,  at  the  time  I  was  there,  was  a 

"CAPE   HORN."  221 

Frenchman,  who  very  foolishly  set  out  to  return  to 
his  camp  from  Downieville  after  dark,  having  to  pass 
this  place  on  the  way.  He  had  taken  the  precaution 
to  provide  himself  with  a  candle  and  some  matches 
to  light  him  round  the  Cape,  but  he  was  found  dead 
on  the  rocks  the  next  morning. 



A  FEW  weeks  before  my  arrival  there,  Downieville 
had  been  the  scene  of  great  excitement  on  one  of 
those  occasions  when  the  people  took  on  themselves 
the  administration  and  execution  of  justice. 

A  Mexican  woman  one  forenoon  had,  without  pro- 
vocation, stabbed  a  miner  to  the  heart,  killing  him  on 
the  spot.  The  news  of  the  murder  spread  rapidly  up 
and  down  the  river,  and  a  vast  concourse  of  miners 
immediately  began  to  collect  in  the  town. 

The  woman,  an  hour  or  two  after  she  committed 
the  murder,  was  formally  tried  by  a  jury  of  twelve, 
found  guilty,  and  condemned  to  be  hung  that  after- 
noon. The  case  was  so  clear  that  it  admitted  of  no 
doubt,  several  men  having  been  witnesses  of  the 
whole  occurrence  ;  and  the  woman  was  hung  accord- 
ingly, on  the  bridge  in  front  of  the  town,  in  presence 
of  many  thousand  people. 

LYNCH   LAW.  223 

For  those  whose  ideas  of  the  proper  mode  of  ad- 
ministering criminal  law  are  only  acquired  from  an 
acquaintance  with  the  statistics  of  crime  and  its 
punishment  in  such  countries  as  England,  where  a 
single  murder  excites  horror  throughout  the  kingdom, 
and  is  for  days  a  matter  of  public  interest,  where 
judicial  corruption  is  unknown,  where  the  instruments 
of  the  law  are  ubiquitous,  and  its  action  all  but  infal- 
lible,— for  such  persons  it  may  be  difficult  to  realise 
a  state  of  things  which  should  render  it  necessary,  or 
even  excusable,  that  any  number  of  irresponsible  in- 
dividuals should  exercise  a  power  of  life  and  death 
over  their  fellow-men. 

And  no  doubt  many  sound  theories  may  be 
brought  forward  against  the  propriety  of  adminis- 
tering Lynch  law  ;  but  California,  in  the  state  of 
society  which  then  existed,  and  in  view  of  the  total 
inefficiency,  or  worse  than  inefficiency,  of  the  estab- 
lished courts  of  justice,  was  no  place  for  theorising 
upon  abstract  principles.  Society  had  to  protect 
itself  by  the  most  practical  and  unsophisticated 
system  of  retributive  justice,  quick  in  its  action,  and 
whose  operation,  being  totally  divested  of  all  mystery 
and  unnecessary  ceremony,  was  perfectly  compre- 
hensible to  the  meanest  understanding — a  system 
inconsistent  with  public  safety  in  old  countries — un- 
necessary, in  fact,  where  the  machinery  of  the  law  is 
perfect  in  all  its  parts — but  at  the  same  time  one 
which  men  most  naturally  adopt  in  the  absence  of 
all  other  protection ;  and  any  one  who  lived  in  the 


mines  of  California  at  that  time  is  bound  gratefully 
to  acknowledge  that  the  feeling  of  security  of  life  and 
person  which  he  there  enjoyed  was  due  in  a  great 
measure  to  his  knowledge  of  the  fact  that  this 
admirable  institution  of  Lynch  law  was  in  full  and 
active  operation. 

There  were  in  California  the  elite  of  the  most 
desperate  and  consummate  scoundrels  from  every 
part  of  the  world;  and  the  unsettled  state  of  the 
country,  the  wandering  habits  of  the  mining  popula- 
tion, scattered,  as  they  were,  all  over  the  mountains, 
and  frequently  carrying  an  amount  of  gold  on  their 
persons  inconvenient  from  its  very  weight,  together 
with  the  isolated  condition  of  many  individuals, 
strangers  to  every  one  around  them,  and  who,  if  put 
out  of  the  way,  would  never  have  been  missed — all 
these  things  tended  apparently  to  render  the  country 
one  where  such  ruffians  would  have  ample  room  to 
practise  their  villany.  But,  thanks  to  Lynch  law, 
murders  and  robberies,  numerous  as  they  were,  were 
by  no  means  of  such  frequent  occurrence  as  might 
have  been  expected,  considering  the  opportunities 
and  temptations  afforded  to  such  a  large  proportion 
of  the  population,  who  were  only  restrained  from 
violence  by  a  wholesome  regard  for  the  safety  of  their 
own  necks. 

And  after  all,  the  fear  of  punishment  of  death 
is  the  most  effectual  preventive  of  crime.  To  the 
class  of  men  among  whom  murderers  are  found,  it  is 
probably  the  only  feeling  which  deters  them,  and  its 

EFFECT    OF    LYNCH    LAW.  225 

influence  is  unconsciously  felt  even  by  those  whose 
sense  of  right  and  wrong  is  not  yet  so  dead  as  to  allow 
them  to  contemplate  the  possibility  of  their  commit- 
ting a  murder.  In  old  States,  however,  fear  of  the 
punishment  of  death  does  not  act  with  its  full  force 
on  the  mind  of  the  intending  criminal,  for  the  idea  of 
the  expiation  of  his  crime  on  the  scaffold  has  to  be 
preceded  in  his  imagination  by  all  the  mysterious  and 
tedious  formalities  of  the  law,  in  the  uncertainty  of 
which  he  is  apt  to  flatter  himself  that  he  will  by  some 
means  get  an  acquittal ;  and  even  if  convicted,  the 
length  of  time  which  must  elapse  before  his  ultimate 
punishment,  together  with  the  parade  and  circum- 
stance with  which  it  is  attended,  divests  it  in  a  great 
measure  of  the  feelings  of  horror  which  it  is  intended 
to  arouse. 

But  when  Lynch  law  prevails,  it  strikes  terror  to 
the  heart  of  the  evil-doer.  He  has  no  hazy  and  un- 
defined view  of  his  ultimate  fate  in  the  distant  future, 
but  a  vivid  picture  is  before  him  of  the  sure  and 
speedy  consequence  of  crime.  The  formalities  and 
delays  of  the  law,  which  are  instituted  for  the  protec- 
tion of  the  people,  are  for  the  same  reason  abolished, 
and  the  criminal  knows  that,  instead  of  being  tried 
by  the  elaborate  and  intricate  process  of  law,  his  very 
ignorance  of  which  leads  him  to  over-estimate  his 
chance  of  escape,  he  will  have  to  stand  before  a  tri- 
bunal of  men,  who  will  try  him,  not  by  law,  but  by 
hard,  straightforward  common-sense,  and  from  whom 

he  can  hope  for  no  other  verdict  than  that  which  his 



own  conscience  awards  him  ;  while  execution  follows 
so  close  upon  sentence,  that  it  forms,  as  it  were,  but 
part  of  the  same  ceremony  :  for  Californians  were 
eminently  practical  and  earnest ;  what  they  meant  to 
do  they  did  "right  off,"  with  all  their  might,  and 
as  if  they  really  meant  to  do  it ;  and  Lynch  law  was 
administered  with  characteristic  promptness  and  de- 
cision. Sufficient  time,  however,  or  at  least  what  was 
considered  to  be  sufficient  time,  was  always  granted  to 
the  criminal  to  prepare  for  death.  Very  frequently 
he  was  not  hanged  till  the  day  after  his  trial. 

An  execution,  of  course,  attracted  an  immense 
crowd,  but  it  was  conducted  with  as  little  parade  as 
possible.  Men  were  hung  in  the  readiest  way  which 
suggested  itself — on  a  bough  of  the  nearest  tree,  or 
on  a  tree  close  to  the  spot  where  the  murder  was  com- 
mitted. In  some  instances  the  criminal  was  run  up 
by  a  number  of  men,  all  equally  sharing  the  hang- 
man's duty ;  on  other  occasions,  one  man  was  ap- 
pointed to  the  office  of  executioner,  and  a  drop  was 
extemporised  by  placing  the  culprit  on  his  feet  on  the 
top  of  an  empty  box  or  barrel,  under  the  bough  of  a 
tree,  and  at  the  given  signal  the  box  was  knocked 
away  from  under  him. 

Not  an  uncommon  mode  was,  to  mount  the  crimi- 
nal on  a  horse  or  mule,  when,  after  the  rope  was  ad- 
justed, a  cut  of  a  whip  was  administered  to  the  back 
of  the  animal,  and  the  man  was  left  suspended. 

Petty  thefts,  which  were  of  very  rare  occurrence, 
were  punished  by  so  many  lashes  with  a  cow-hide, 


and  the  culprit  was  then  banished  the  camp.  A  man 
who  would  commit  a  petty  theft  was  generally  such 
a  poor  miserable  devil  as  to  excite  compassion  more 
than  any  other  feeling,  and  not  unfrequently,  after 
his  chastisement,  a  small  subscription  was  raised  for 
him,  to  help  him  along  till  he  reached  some  other 

Theft  or  robbery  of  any  considerable  amount,  how- 
ever, was  a  capital  crime  ;  and  horse-stealing,  to  which 
the  Mexicans  more  particularly  devoted  themselves, 
was  invariably  a  hanging  matter. 

Lynch  law  had  hitherto  prevailed  only  in  the  mines ; 
but  about  this  time  it  had  been  found  necessary  to 
introduce  it  also  in  San  Francisco.  The  number  of 
murders  and  robberies  committed  there  had  of  late 
increased  to  an  alarming  extent ;  and  from  the  laxity 
and  corruption  of  those  intrusted  with  the  punish- 
ment and  prevention  of  crime,  the  criminal  part  of 
the  population  carried  on  their  operations  with  such 
a  degree  of  audacity,  and  so  much  apparent  confidence 
in  the  impunity  which  they  enjoyed,  that  society,  in 
the  total  inefficiency  of  the  system  which  it  had  insti- 
tuted for  its  defence  and  preservation,  threatened  to 
become  a  helpless  prey  to  the  well-organised  gang  of 
ruffians  who  were  every  day  becoming  more  insolent 
in  their  career. 

At  last  human  nature  could  stand  it  no  longer,  and 
the  people  saw  the  necessity  of  acting  together  in  self- 
defence.  A  Committee  of  Vigilance  was  accordingly 
formed,  composed  chiefly  of  the  most  prominent  and 


influential  citizens,  and  which  had  the  cordial  approval, 
and  the  active  support,  of  nearly  the  entire  population 
of  the  city. 

The  first  action  of  the  Committee  was  to  take  two 
men  out  of  gaol  who  had  already  been  convicted  of 
murder  and  robbery,  but  for  the  execution  of  whose 
sentence  the  experience  of  the  past  afforded  no  gua- 
rantee. These  two  men,  when  taken  out  of  the  gaol, 
were  driven  in  a  coach  and  four  at  full  gallop  through 
the  town,  and  in  half  an  hour  they  were  swinging 
from  the  beams  projecting  over  the  windows  of  the 
store  which  was  used  as  the  committee-rooms. 

The  Committee,  during  their  reign,  hanged  four 
or  five  men,  all  of  whom,  by  their  own  confessions, 
deserved  hanging  half-a-dozen  times  over.  Their 
confessions  disclosed  a  most  extensive  and  wealthy 
organisation  of  villany,  in  which  several  men  of  com- 
paratively respectable  position  were  implicated.  These 
were  the  projectors  and  designers  of  elaborate  schemes 
of  wholesale  robbery,  which  the  more  practical  mem- 
bers of  the  profession  executed  under  their  superin- 
tendence ;  and  in  the  possession  of  some  of  these  men 
there  were  found  exact  plans  of  the  stores  of  many  of 
the  wealthiest  merchants,  along  with  programmes  of 
robberies  to  come  off. 

The  operations  of  the  Committee  were  not  confined 
to  hanging  alone  ;  their  object  was  to  purge  the  city 
of  the  whole  herd  of  malefactors  which  infested  it. 
Most  of  them,  however,  were  panic-struck  at  the  first 
alarm  of  Lynch  law,  and  fled  to  the  mines;  but  many 


of  those  who  were  denounced  in  the  confessions  of 
their  brethren  were  seized  by  the  Committee,  and 
shipped  out  of  the  country.  Several  of  the  most  dis- 
tinguished scoundrels  were  graduates  from  our  penal 
colonies  ;  and  to  put  a  stop,  if  possible,  to  the  further 
immigration  of  such  characters,  the  Committee  boarded 
every  ship  from  New  South  Wales  as  she  arrived,  and 
satisfied  themselves  of  the  respectability  of  each  pas- 
senger before  allowing  him  to  land. 

The  authorities,  of  course,  were  greatly  incensed  at 
the  action  of  the  Vigilance  Committee  in  taking  from 
them  the  power  they  had  so  badly  used,  but  they 
could  do  nothing  against  the  unanimous  voice  of  the 
people,  and  had  to  submit  with  the  best  grace  they 

The  Committee,  after  a  very  short  but  very  active 
reign,  had  so  far  accomplished  their  object  of  suppress- 
ing crime,  and  driving  the  scum  of  the  population  out 
of  the  city,  that  they  resigned  their  functions  in  favour 
of  the  constituted  authorities ;  at  the  same  time,  how- 
ever, intimating  that  they  remained  alert,  and  only 
inactive  so  long  as  the  ordinary  course  of  law  was 
found  effectual. 

From  that  time  till  the  month  of  May  1856  the 
Vigilance  Committee  did  not  interfere ;  and  to  any 
one  familiar  with  the  history  of  San  Francisco  during 
this  period,  it  will  appear  extraordinary  that  the 
people  should  have  remained  so  long  inactive  under 
the  frightful  mal-administration  of  criminal  law  to 
which  they  were  subjected. 


The  crime  which  at  last  roused  the  people  from 
their  apathy,  but  which  was  not  more  foul  than 
hundreds  which  had  preceded  it,  and  only  more  ag- 
gravated, inasmuch  as  the  victim  was  one  of  the  most 
universally  respected  citizens  of  the  State,  was  the 
assassination,  in  open  day  and  in  the  public  street,  of 
Mr  James  King,  of  William,  by  a  man  named  Casey. 

The  causes  which  had  gradually  been  driving 
the  people  to  assert  their  own  power,  as  they  did  on 
this  occasion,  differed  very  materially  from  those  which 
gave  birth  to  the  Vigilance  Committee  of  '51,  when 
their  object  was  merely  to  root  out  a  gang  of  house- 

To  explain  the  necessity  of  the  revolution  which 
took  place  in  San  Francisco  in  May  '56  would  re- 
quire a  dissertation  on  San  Francisco  politics,  which 
might  not  be  very  interesting  ;  suffice  it  to  say,  that 
the  power  of  controlling  the  elections  had  gradually  got 
into  the  hands  of  men  who  "  stuffed  "  the  ballot-boxes, 
and  sold  the  elections  to  whom  they  pleased;  and 
the  natural  consequences  of  such  a  state  of  things  led 
to  the  revolution. 

In  the  Alta  California  of  San  Francisco  of  the  1st 
of  June  is  a  short  article,  which  gives  such  a  complete 
idea  of  the  state  of  affairs  that  I  take  the  liberty  to 
transcribe  it.  It  is  written  when  the  Vigilance  Com- 
mittee, having,  a  day  or  two  before,  hanged  two  men, 
are  still  actively  engaged  making  numerous  arrests  ; 
and  it  is  remarkable  that  just  at  this  time  the  autho- 
rities actually  hang  a  man  too. 

OF   MAY   1856.  231 

The  Alta  announces  the  fact  in  the  following 
article  : — 

"  A  man  was  executed  yesterday  for  murder,  after 
a  due  compliance  with  all  the  forms  of  law. 

"  That  he  had  been  guilty  of  the  crime  for  which 
he  suffered  there  can  be  no  doubt ;  and  yet  it  is 
entirely  probable  that,  but  for  the  circumstances 
which  have  occurred  in  San  Francisco  within  the 
past  three  weeks,  he  never  would  have  paid  to  the 
offended  law  the  penalty  affixed  to  his  crime. 

"  It  is  a  very  remarkable  fact  in  the  history  of  this 
execution,  that  the  condemned  man,  at  the  time  of 
the  murder  of  Mr  King,  was  living  only  under  the 
respite  of  the  Governor,  and  that  that  respite  was 
obtained  through  the  active  interposition  of  Casey, 
who  little  dreamed  that  he  would  suffer  the  death- 
penalty  before  the  man  whom  he  had  laboured  to 

"  This  is  the  third  execution  only,  under  the  forms 
of  law,  which  has  ever  been  had  in  San  Francisco 
since  it  became  an  American  city.  Murder  after 
murder  has  been  committed,  and  murderer  after 
murderer  has  been  arrested  and  tried.  Those  who 
were  blessed  with  friends  and  money  have  usually 
succeeded  in  escaping  through  the  forms  of  law  be- 
fore a  conviction  was  reached.  Those  who  failed  in 
this  respect  have,  with  the  exceptions  we  have  stated, 
been  saved  from  punishment  through  the  unwarranted 
interference  of  the  executive  officer  of  the  State.  So 
murder  has  enjoyed  in  San  Francisco  almost  a  certain 

232  AMOUNT   OF   CRIME. 

immunity  from  punishment;  and  the  consequence 
has  been,  that  it  has  stalked  abroad  high-handed  and 
bold.  Over  a  year  ago,  we  understood  the  district 
attorney  to  state,  in  an  argument  before  a  jury  in  a 
murder  case,  that,  since  the  settlement  of  San  Fran- 
cisco by  the  American  people,  there  had  been  twelve 
hundred  murders  committed  here.  We  thought  at 
the  time  the  number  stated  was  unduly  large,  and 
think  so  still ;  but  it  has  been  large  enough,  beyond 
doubt,  to  give  us  the  unenviable  reputation  we  have 
obtained  abroad. 

"  And  yet,  in  spite  of  these  facts,  but  three  criminals 
have  suffered  the  death-penalty  awarded  to  the  crimes 
of  which  they  have  been  guilty.  These  were  all 
friendless,  moneyless  men.  A  sad  commentary  this 
on  that  motto,  '  Equal  and  exact  justice  to  all/  which 
we  delight  to  blazon  over  our  constitution  and  laws. 

"  Was  it  not  time  for  a  change — time,  if  need  be, 
for  a  revolution  which  should  inaugurate  a  new  state 
of  things  —  which  should  give  an  assurance  that 
human  life  should  be  protected  from  the  hand  of  the 
gentlemanly  and  monied  assassin,  as  well  as  from  the 
miserable,  the  poor,  and  the  friendless  \  Such  a  revo- 
lution has  been  made  by  the  people,  and  it  has  been 
the  inauguration  of  a  new  and  bright  era  in  our  his- 
tory, in  which  an  assurance  has  been  given,  that 
neither  the  technicalities  of  a  badly  administered  law, 
nor  the  interference  of  the  Executive,  can  save  the 
murderer  from  the  punishment  he  justly  merits.  It 
has  been  brought  about  by  the  very  evils  it  is  intended 


to  remedy.  Had  crime  been  punished  here  as  it 
should  have  been — had  the  law  done  its  duty,  Casey 
would  never  have  dared  to  shoot  down  the  lamented 
King  in  broad  daylight,  with  the  hope  that  through 
the  forms  of  law  he  would  escape  punishment.  There 
would  have  been  no  necessity  for  a  Vigilance  Com- 
mittee, no  need  of  a  revolution.  Let  us  hope  that  in 
future  the  law  will  be  no  longer  a  mockery,  but  be- 
come, what  it  was  intended  by  its  founders  to  be,  *  a 
terror  to  evil-doers/" 

The  number  of  murders  here  given  is  no  doubt 
appalling,  but  it  is  apt  to  give  an  idea  of  an  infinitely 
more  dreadful  state  of  society,  and  of  much  greater 
insecurity  of  life  to  peaceable  citizens  than  was 
actually  the  case. 

If  these  murders  were  classified,  it  would  be  found 
that  the  frequency  of  fatal  duels  had  greatly  swelled 
the  list,  while,  in  the  majority  of  cases,  the  murders 
would  turn  out  to  be  the  results  of  rencontres  between 
desperadoes  and  ruffians,  who,  by  having  their  little 
difficulties  among  themselves,  and  shooting  and 
stabbing  each  other,  and  thus  diminishing  their  own 
numbers,  were  rather  entitled  to  the  thanks  of  the 
respectable  portion  of  the  community. 

It  is  very  certain  that  in  San  Francisco  crime  was 
fostered  by  the  laxity  of  the  law,  but  it  is  equally 
reasonable  to  believe  that  in  the  mines,  where  Lynch 
law  had  full  swing,  the  amount  of  crime  actually  com- 
mitted by  the  large  criminally  disposed  portion  of  the 
community,  consisting  of  lazy  Mexican  ladrones  and 


cutthroats,  well-trained  professional  burglars  from 
populous  countries,  and  outcast  desperadoes  from  all 
the  corners  of  the  earth,  was  not  so  great  as  would 
have  resulted  from  the  presence  of  the  same  men  in 
any  old  country,  where  the  law,  clothed  in  all  its 
majesty,  is  more  mysterious  and  slow,  however  irre- 
sistible, in  its  action. 



WITHOUT  having  visited  some  distant  place  in  the 
mountains,  such  as  Downieville,  it  was  impossible  to 
realise  fully  the  extraordinary  extent  to  which  the 
country  had,  in  so  short  a  time,  been  overrun  and 
settled  by  a  population  whose  energy  and  adaptive 
genius  had  immediately  seized  and  improved  every 
natural  advantage  which  presented  itself,  and  whose 
quickly  acquired  wealth  enabled  them  to  introduce  so 
much  luxury,  and  to  afford  employment  to  so  many 
of  those  branches  of  industry  which  usually  flourish 
only  in  old  communities,  that  in  some  respects  Cali- 
fornia can  hardly  be  said  to  have  ever  been  a  new 
country,  as  compared  with  other  parts  of  the  world 
to  which  that  term  is  applied. 

The  men  who  settled  the  country  imparted  to  it  a 
good  deal  of  their  own  nature,  which  knows  no  period 

236  LABOUR   AND 

of  boyhood.  The  Americans  spring  at  once  from 
childhood,  or  almost  from  infancy,  to  manhood  ;  and 
California,  no  less  rapid  in  its  growth,  became 
a  full-grown  State,  while  one-half  the  world  still 
doubted  its  existence. 

The  amount  of  labour  which  had  already  been  per- 
formed in  the  mines  was  almost  incredible.  Every 
river  and  creek  from  one  end  to  the  other  presented 
a  busy  scene ;  on  the  "  bars/'  of  course,  the  miners 
were  congregated  in  the  greatest  numbers  ;  but  there 
was  scarcely  any  part  of  their  course  where  some  work 
was  not  going  on,  and  the  flumes  were  so  numerous, 
that  for  about  one-third  of  their  length  the  rivers 
were  carried  past  in  those  wooden  aqueducts. 

The  most  populous  part  of  the  mines,  however,  was 
in  the  high  mountain- land  between  the  rivers,  and 
here  the  whole  country  had  been  ransacked,  every 
flat  and  ravine  had  been  prospected ;  and  wherever 
extensive  diggings  had  been  found,  towns  and  villages 
had  sprung  up. 

Young  as  California  was,  it  was  in  one  respect 
older  than  its  parent  country,  for  life  was  so  fast  that 
already  it  could  show  ruins  and  deserted  villages.  In 
out-of-the-way  places  one  met  with  cabins  fallen  into 
disrepair,  which  the  proprietors  had  abandoned  to 
locate  themselves  elsewhere  ;  and  even  villages  of 
thirty  or  forty  shanties  were  to  be  seen  deserted  and 
desolate,  where  the  diggings  had  not  proved  so  pro- 
ductive as  the  original  founders  had  anticipated. 

Labour,  however,  was  not  exclusively  devoted  to 

LUXURY    IN   THE   MINES.  237 

mining  operations.  Roads  had  in  many  parts  been 
cut  in  the  sides  of  the  mountains,  bridges  had  been 
built,  and  innumerable  saw-mills,  most  of  them  driven 
by  steam  power,  were  in  full  operation,  many  of  them 
having  been  erected  in  anticipation  of  a  demand  for 
lumber,  and  before  any  population  existed  around 
them.  Every  little  valley  in  the  mountains  where 
the  soil  was  at  all  fit  for  cultivation,  was  already 
fenced  in,  and  producing  crops  of  barley  or  oats  ;  and 
canals,  in  some  cases  forty  or  fifty  miles  long,  were 
in  course  of  construction,  to  bring  the  waters  of  the 
rivers  to  the  mountain-tops,  to  diggings  which  were 
otherwise  unavailable. 

Life  for  the  most  part  was  hard  enough  certainly, 
but  every  village  was  a  little  city  of  itself,  where  one 
could  live  in  comparative  luxury.  Even  Downieville 
had  its  theatre  and  concerts,  its  billiard -rooms  and 
saloons  of  all  sorts,  a  daily  paper,  warm  baths,  and 
restaurants  where  men  in  red  flannel  shirts,  with  bare 
arms,  spread  a  napkin  over  their  muddy  knees,  and 
studied  the  bill  of  fare  for  half  an  hour  before  they 
could  make  up  their  minds  what  to  order  for 

I  was  sitting  on  a  rock  by  the  side  of  the  river 
one  day  sketching,  when  I  became  aware  that  a  most 
ragamuifinish  individual  was  looking  over  my  shoulder. 
He  was  certainly,  without  exception,  the  most  tattered 
and  torn  man  I  ever  saw  in  my  life ;  even  his  hair  and 
beard  gave  the  idea  of  rags,  which  was  fully  realised 
by  his  costume.  He  was  a  complete  caricature  of  an 

238  THE   MAN   THAT   WAS 

old  miner,  and  quite  a  picture  of  himself,  seen  from 
any  point  of  view. 

The  rim  of  his  old  brown  hat  seemed  ready  to  drop 
down  on  his  shoulders  at  a  moment's  notice,  and  the 
sides,  having  dissolved  all  connection  with  the  crown, 
presented  at  the  top  a  jagged  circumference,  festooned 
here  and  there  with  locks  of  light  brown  hair,  while, 
to  keep  the  whole  fabric  from  falling  to  pieces  of  its 
own  weight,  it  was  bound  round  with  a  piece  of 
string  in  lieu  of  a  hat-band.  His  hair  hung  all  over 
his  shoulders  in  large  straight  flat  locks,  just  as  if  a 
handkerchief  had  been  nailed  to  the  top  of  his  head 
and  then  torn  into  shreds,  and  a  long  beard  of  the 
same  pattern  fringed  a  face  as  brown  as  a  mahogany 
table.  His  shirt  had  once  been  red  flannel — of  course 
it  was  flannel  yet,  what  remained  of  it — but  it  was  in 
a  most  dilapidated  condition.  Half-way  down  to 
his  elbows  hung  some  shreds,  which  led  to  the  belief 
that  at  one  time  he  had  possessed  a  pair  of  sleeves; 
but  they  seemed  to  have  been  removed  by  the  action 
of  time  and  the  elements,  which  had  also  been  busy 
with  other  parts  of  the  garment,  and  had,  moreover, 
changed  its  original  scarlet  to  different  shades  of 
crimson  and  purple.  There  was  enough  of  his  shirt 
left  almost  to  meet  a  pair  of — not  trousers,  but  still 
less  mentionable  articles,  of  the  same  material  as 
the  shirt,  and  in  the  same  stage  of  decomposition.  He 
must  have  had  trousers  once  on  a  time,  but  I  suppose 
he  had  worn  them  out ;  and  I  could  not  help  thinking 
what  extraordinary  things  they  must  have  been  on  the 


morning  when  he  came  to  the  conclusion  that  they 
were  not  good  enough  to  wear.  I  daresay  he  would 
have  put  them  on  if  he  could,  but  perhaps  they  were 
so  full  of  holes  that  he  did  not  know  which  to  get 
into.  His  boots  at  least  had  reached  this  point,  and 
to  acknowledge  that  they  had  been  boots  was  as  much 
as  a  conscientious  man  could  say  for  them.  They 
were  more  holes  than  leather,  and  had  no  longer  any 
title  to  the  name  of  boots. 

He  was  a  man  between  thirty  and  forty,  and,  not- 
withstanding his  rags,  there  was  nothing  in  his  ap- 
pearance at  all  dirty  or  repulsive ;  on  the  contrary, 
he  had  a  very  handsome,  prepossessing  face,  with  an 
air  about  him  which  at  once  gave  the  idea  that  he 
had  been  used  to  polite  society.  I  was,  consequently, 
not  surprised  at  the  style  of  his  address.  He  talked 
with  me  for  some  time,  and  I  found  him  a  most 
amusing  and  gentlemanly  fellow.  He  was  a  German 
doctor,  but  it  was  hard  to  detect  any  foreign  accent 
in  his  pronunciation. 

The  claim  he  was  working  was  a  mile  or  two  up 
the  river,  and  his  company,  he  told  me,  was  one  of 
the  greatest  curiosities  in  the  country.  It  consisted 
of  two  Americans,  two  Frenchmen,  two  Italians,  two 
Mexicans,  and  my  ragged  friend,  who  was  the  only 
man  in  the  company  who  spoke  any  language  but  his 
mother  tongue.  He  was  captain  of  the  company,  and 
interpreter-general  for  the  crowd.  I  quite  believed 
him  when  he  said  it  was  hard  work  to  keep  them  all 
in  order,  and  that  when  he  was  away  no  work  could 

240  THE    TOWER   OF   BABEL. 

be  done  at  all,  and  for  that  reason  he  was  now  hurry- 
ing back  to  his  claim.  But  before  leaving  me  he 
said,  "  I  saw  you  sketching  from  the  trail,  and  I  came 
down  to  ask  a  favour  of  you." 

There  is  as  much  vanity  sometimes  in  rags  as  in 
gorgeous  apparel ;  and  what  he  wanted  of  me  was  to 
make  a  sketch  of  him,  rags  and  all,  just  as  he  was. 
To  study  such  a  splendid  figure  was  exactly  what  I 
wanted  to  do  myself,  so  I  made  an  appointment  with 
him  for  the  next  day,  and  begged  of  him  in  the  mean- 
time not  to  think  of  combing  his  hair,  which,  indeed, 
to  judge  from  its  appearance,  he  had  not  done  for 
some  time. 

I  found  afterwards  that  he  was  a  well-known 
character,  and  went  by  the  name  of  the  Flying 

I  passed  by  his  claim  one  day,  and  such  a  scene  it 
was !  The  Tower  of  Babel  was  not  a  circumstance 
to  it.  The  whole  of  the  party  were  up  to  their  waists 
in  water,  in  the  middle  of  the  river,  trying  to  build 
a  wing-dam.  The  Americans,  the  Frenchmen,  the 
Italians,  and  the  Mexicans,  were  all  pulling  in  different 
directions  at  an  immense  unwieldy  log,  and  bestowing 
on  each  other  most  frightful  oaths,  though  happily 
in  unknown  tongues  ;  while  the  directing  genius,  the 
Flying  Dutchman,  was  rushing  about  among  them, 
and  gesticulating  wildly  in  his  endeavours  to  pacify 
them,  and  to  explain  what  was  to  be  done.  He  spoke 
all  the  modern  languages  at  once,  occasionally  talking 
Spanish  to  a  Frenchman,  and  English  to  the  Italians, 


then  cursing  his  own  stupidity  in  German,  and  blow- 
ing them  all  up  collectively  in  a  promiscuous  jumble 
of  national  oaths,  when  they  all  came  to  a  stand-still, 
the  Flying  Dutchman  even  seeming  to  give  it  up  in 
despair.  But  after  addressing  a  few  explanatory 
remarks  to  each  nation  separately,  in  their  respective 
languages,  he  persuaded  them  to  try  once  more,  when 
they  got  along  well  enough  for  a  few  minutes,  till 
something  went  wrong,  and  then  the  Tower-of-Babel 
scene  was  enacted  over  again. 

What  induced  the  Flying  Dutchman  to  form  a 
company  of  such  incongruous  materials,  and  to 
take  so  much  trouble  in  trying  to  work  it,  I  can't 
say,  unless  it  was  a  little  of  the  same  innocent  vanity 
which  was  apparent  in  his  exaggerated  style  of  dress. 

There  was  a  considerable  number  of  Frenchmen 
in  the  neighbourhood  of  Downieville,  but  they  kept 
very  much  to  themselves.  So  very  few  of  them,  even 
of  the  better  class,  could  speak  English,  and  so  few 
American  miners  knew  anything  of  French,  that 
scarcely  ever  were  they  found  working  together. 

In  common  intercourse  of  buying  and  selling,  or 
asking  and  giving  any  requisite  information,  neither 
party  were  ever  very  much  at  a  loss  ;  a  few  words  of 
broken  English,  a  word  or  two  of  French,  and  a  large 
share  of  pantomime,  carried  them  through  any  con- 

When  any  one  capable  of  acting  as  interpreter 
happened  to  be  present,  the  Frenchman,  in  his  im- 
patience, was  constantly  asking  him  "  Qu'est  ce  qu'il 



diU"  "Qu'est  ce  qu'il  ditT  This  caught  the  ear 
of  the  Americans  more  than  anything  else,  and  a 
"Keskydee"  came  at  last  to  be  a  synonyme  for 
a  "  Parleyvoo." 

The  "  Dutchmen"  in  the  mines,  under  which  de- 
nomination are  included  all  manner  of  Germans, 
showed  much  greater  aptitude  to  amalgamate  with 
the  people  around  them.  Frenchmen  were  always 
found  in  gangs,  but  "  Dutchmen"  were  usually  met 
with  as  individuals,  and  more  frequently  associated 
with  Americans  than  with  their  own  countrymen. 
For  the  most  part  they  spoke  English  very  well,  and 
there  were  none  who  could  not  make  themselves  per- 
fectly intelligible. 

But  in  making  such  a  comparison  between  the  Ger- 
mans and  the  French,  it  would  not  be  fair  to  leave 
unmentioned  the  fact,  that  the  great  majority  of  the 
former  were  men  who  had  the  advantage  of  having 
lived  for  a  greater  or  less  time  in  the  United  States, 
while  the  Frenchmen  had  nearly  all  immigrated  in 
ship-loads  direct  from  their  native  country. 

About  thirty  miles  above  Downieville  is  one  of  the 
highest  mountains  in  the  mines.  The  view  from  the 
summit,  which  is  composed  of  several  rocky  peaks  in 
line  with  each  other,  like  the  teeth  of  a  saw,  was  said 
to  be  one  of  the  finest  in  California,  and  I  was  de- 
sirous of  seeing  it ;  but  the  mountain  was  on  the  verge 
of  settlement,  and  there  was  no  camp  or  house  of 
accommodation  nearer  to  it  than  Downieville.  How- 
ever, the  Frenchman  in  whose  house  I  was  staying 

BAD    "PACKING."  243 

told  me  that  a  friend  of  his,  who  was  mining  there, 
would  be  down  in  a  day  or  two,  and  that  he  would 
introduce  me  to  him.  He  came  down  the  next  day 
for  a  supply  of  provisions,  and  I  gladly  took  the 
opportunity  of  returning  with  him.  • 

The  trail  followed  the  river  all  the  way,  and  was 
very  rough,  many  parts  of  it  being  nearly  as  bad  as 
"  Cape  Horn/'  The  Frenchman  had  a  pack-mule 
loaded  with  his  stock  of  provisions,  which  gave  him 
an  infinity  of  trouble.  He  was  such  a  bad  packer 
that  the  cargo  was  constantly  shifting,  and  requiring 
to  be  repacked  and  secured.  At  one  spot,  where 
there  was  a  steep  descent  from  the  trail  to  the  river 
of  about  a  hundred  feet,  the  whole  cargo  broke  loose, 
and  fell  to  the  ground.  The  only  article,  however, 
which  rolled  off  the  narrow  trail  was  a  keg  of  butter, 
which  went  bounding  down  the  hill  till  it  reached  the 
bottom,  where  at  one  smash  it  buttered  the  whole 
surface  of  a  large  flat  rock  in  the  middle  of  the  river. 
The  Frenchman  climbed  down  by  a  circuitous  route 
to  recover  what  he  could  of  it,  while  I  remained  to 
repack  the  cargo.  Without  further  accident  we 
arrived  about  dark  at  my  companion's  cabin,  where 
we  found  his  partners  just  preparing  supper ; — and  a 
very  good  supper  it  was ;  for,  with  only  the  ordinary 
materials  of  flour,  ham,  and  beef,  it  was  astonishing 
what  a  very  superior  mess  a  Frenchman  could  get  up. 

After  smoking  an  infinite  number  of  pipes,  I 
stretched  out  on  the  floor,  with  my  feet  to  the  fire, 
and  slept  like  a  top  till  morning,  when,  having  got 


directions  from  the  Frenchman  as  to  my  route,  I  set 
but  to  climb  the  mountain.  The  cabin  was  situated 
at  the  base  of  one  of  the  spurs  into  which  the  moun- 
tain branched  off,  and  was  about  eight  miles  distant 
from  the  summit. 

When  I  had  got  about  half-way  up,  I  came  in  sight 
of  a  quartz-grinding  establishment,  situated  on  an 
exceedingly  steep  place,  where  a  small  stream  of 
water  came  dashing  over  the  rocks.  In  the  face  of 
the  hill  a  step  had  been  cut  out,  on  which  a  cabin 
was  built,  and  immediately  below  it  were  two  "  rast- 
ers "  in  full  operation. 

These  are  the  most  primitive  kind  of  contrivances 
for  grinding  quartz.  They  are  circular  places,  ten  or 
twelve  feet  in  diameter,  flagged  with  flat  stones,  and 
in  these  the  quartz  is  crushed  by  two  large  heavy 
stones  dragged  round  and  round  by  a  mule  harnessed 
to  a  horizontal  beam,  to  which  they  are  also  attached. 
.  The  quartz  is  already  broken  up  into  small  pieces 
before  being  put  into  the  raster,  and  a  constant  sup- 
ply of  water  is  necessary  to  facilitate  the  operation, 
the  stuff,  while  being  ground,  having  the  appearance 
pf  a  rich  white  mud.  The  Mexicans,  who  use  this 
machine  a  great  deal,  have  a  way  of  ascertaining  when 
the  quartz  is  sufficiently  ground,  by  feeling  it  between 
the  finger  and  thumb  of  one  hand,  while  with  the 
pther  they  feel  the  lower  part  of  their  ear ;  and  when 
the  quartz  has  the  same  soft  velvety  feel,  it  is  consi- 
dered fine  enough,  and  the  gold  is  then  extracted  by 
amalgamation  with  quicksilver. 

A   GALE    OF   WIND. 

A  considerable  amount  of  work  had  been  done  at 
this  place.  The  quartz  vein  was  several  hundred 
yards  above  the  rasters,  and  from  it  there  was  laid  a 
double  line  of  railway  on  the  face  of  the  mountain, 
for  the  purpose  of  bringing  down  the  quartz.  The 
loaded  car  was  intended  to  bring  up  the  empty  one  ; 
but  the  railway  was  so  steep  that  it  looked  as  if  a 
car,  once  started,  would  never  stop  till  it  reached 
the  river,  two  or  three  miles  below. 

The  vein  was  not  being  worked  just  now  ;  and  I 
only  found  one  man  at  the  place,  who  was  employed 
in  keeping  the  two  mules  at  work  in  the  "  rasters." 
He  told  me  that  the  ascent  from  that  point  was  so 
difficult  that  it  would  be  dark  before  I  could  return, 
'and  persuaded  me  to  pass  the  night  with  him,  and 
start  early  the  next  morning. 

The  nights  had  been  getting  pretty  chilly  lately, 
and  up  here  it  was  particularly  so  ;  but  with  the  aid 
of  a  blazing  fire  we  managed  to  make  ourselves  com- 
fortable. I  lay  down  before  the  fire,  with  the  prospect 
of  having  a  good  sleep,  but  woke  in  the  middle  of  the 
night,  feeling  it  most  bitterly  cold.  The  fact  is,  the 
log-cabin  was  merely  a  log-cage,  the  chinks  between 
the  logs  having  never  been  filled  up,  and  it  had  come 
on  to  blow  a  perfect  hurricane.  The  spot  where  the 
cabin  stood  was  very  much  exposed,  and  the  gusts  of 
wind  blew  against  it  and  through  it  as  if  it  would 
carry  us  all  away. 

This  pleasant  state  of  things  lasted  two  days,  during 
which  time  I  remained  a  prisoner  in  the  cabin,  as  the 


force  of  the  wind  was  so  great  that  one  could  scarcely 
stand  outside,  and  the  cold  was  so  intense  that  the 
pools  in  the  stream  which  ran  past  were  covered  with 
ice.  The  cabin  was  but  poor  protection,  the  wind 
having  full  play  through  it,  even  blowing  the  tin 
plates  off  the  table  while  we  were  at  dinner ;  and 
heavy  gusts  coming  down  the  chimney  filled  the  cabin 
with  smoke,  ashes,  and  burning  wood.  Two  days  of 
this  was  rather  miserable  work,  but  with  the  aid  of 
my  pencil  and  two  or  three  old  novels  I  managed  to 
weather  it  out. 

The  third  day  the  gale  was  over,  and  though  still 
cold,  the  weather  was  beautifully  bright  and  clear. 
On  setting  out  on  my  expedition  to  the  summit  of 
the  mountain,  I  had  first  to  climb  up  the  railway, 
which  went  as  far  as  the  top  of  the  ridge,  where  the 
quartz  cropped  out  in  large  masses.  From  this  there 
was  a  gradual  ascent  to  the  summit,  about  four  miles 
distant,  over  ground  which  was  stony,  like  a  newly 
macadamised  road,  and  covered  with  wiry  brushwood 
waist-high.  This  was  rendered  a  still  more  pleasant 
place  to  travel  over  by  being  infested  by  grizzly  bears, 
whose  tracks  I  could  see  on  every  spot  of  ground 
capable  of  receiving  the  impression  of  their  feet.  At 
last  I  arrived  at  the  foot  of  the  immense  masses  of 
rock  which  formed  the  summit  of  the  mountain, 
and  the  only  means  of  continuing  the  ascent  was  by 
climbing  up  long  slides  of  loose  sharp-cornered  stones 
of  all  sizes.  Every  step  I  took  forward,  I  went  about 
half  a  step  backward,  the  stones  giving  way  under 


my  feet,  and  causing  a  general  commotion  from  top 
to  bottom.  On  reaching  the  top  of  this  place,  after 
suffering  a  good  deal  in  my  shins  and  shoe-leather,  I 
found  myself  on  a  ledge  of  rock,  with  a  similar  one 
forty  or  fifty  feet  above  me,  to  be  gained  by  climbing 
another  slide  of  loose  stones ;  and  having  spent  about 
an  hour  in  working  my  passage  up  a  succession  of 
places  of  this  sort,  I  arrived  at  the  foot  of  the  immense 
wall  of  solid  rock  which  crowned  the  summit  of  the 
mountain.  To  reach  the  lowest  point  of  the  top  of 
the  perpendicular  wall  above  me,  I  had  some  fifteen 
or  twenty  feet  to  climb  the  best  way  I  could,  and  the 
prospect  of  any  failure  in  the  attempt  was  by  no  means 
encouraging,  as,  had  I  happened  to  fall,  I  should  have 
been  carried  down  to  the  regions  below  with  an 
avalanche  of  loose  rocks  and  stones.  Even  as  I  stood 
studying  how  I  should  make  the  ascent  by  means  of 
the  projecting  ledges,  and  tracking  out  my  course 
before  I  made  the  attempt,  I  felt  the  stones  beginning 
to  give  way  under  my  feet ;  and  seeing  there  was  no 
time  to  lose,  I  went  at  it,  and  after  a  pretty  hard 
struggle  I  reached  the  top.  This,  however,  was  not 
the  summit — I  was  only  between  the  teeth  of  the 
saw;  but  I  was  enabled  to  gain  the  top  of  one  of  the 
peaks  by  means  of  a  ledge,  about  a  foot  and  a  half 
wide,  which  slanted  up  the  face  of  the  rock.  Here  I 
sat  down  to  enjoy  the  view,  and  certainly  I  felt  amply 
repaid  for  all  the  labour  of  the  ascent,  by  the  vast- 
ness  and  grandeur  of  the  panorama  around  me.  I 
looked  back  for  more  than  a  hundred  miles  over  the 


mountainous  pine-clad  region  of  the  "  Mines,"  where, 
from  the  shapes  of  some  of  the  mountains,  I  could 
distinguish  many  of  the  places  which  I  had  visited. 
Beyond  this  lay  the  wide  plains  of  the  Sacramento 
Valley,  in  which  the  course  of  the  rivers  could  be 
traced  by  the  trees  which  grew  along  their  banks; 
and  beyond  the  plains  the  coast  range  was  distinctly 

On  the  other  side,  from  which  I  had  made  the 
ascent,  there  was  a  sheer  precipice  of  about  two  hun- 
dred feet,  at  the  foot  of  which,  in  eternal  shade,  lay 
heaps  of  snow.  The  mountains  in  this  direction  were 
more  rugged  and  barren,  and  beyond  them  appeared 
the  white  peaks  of  the  Sierra  Nevada.  The  atmosphere 
was  intensely  clear ;  it  was  as  if  there  were  no  atmos- 
phere at  all,  and  the  view  of  the  most  remote  objects 
was  so  vivid  and  distinct  that  any  one  not  used  to 
such  a  clime  would  have  been  slow  to  believe  that 
their  distance  was  so  great  as  it  actually  was.  Monte 
Diablo,  a  peculiarly  shaped  mountain  within  a  few 
miles  of  San  Francisco,  and  upwards  of  three  hundred 
miles  from  where  I  stood,  was  plainly  discernible, 
and  with  as  much  distinctness  as  on  a  clear  day  in 
England  a  mountain  is  seen  at  a  distance  of  fifty  or 
sixty  miles. 

The  beauty  of  the  view,  which  consisted  chiefly  in 
its  vastness,  was  greatly  enhanced  by  being  seen  from 
such  a  lofty  pinnacle.  It  gave  one  the  idea  of  being 
suspended  in  the  air,  and  cut  off  from  all  communi- 
cation with  the  world  below.  The  perfect  solitude  of 


the  place  was  quite  oppressive,  and  was  rendered  still 
more  awful  by  the  occasional  loud  report  of  some 
piece  of  rock,  which,  becoming  detached  from  the 
mass,  went  bounding  down  to  seek  a  more  humble 
resting-place.  The  gradual  disruption  seemed  to  be 
incessant,  for  no  sooner  had  one  fragment  got  out  of 
hearing  down  below,  than  another  started  after  it. 
There  was  a  keen  wind  blowing,  and  it  was  so  miser- 
ably cold,  that  when  I  had  been  up  here  for  about  an 
hour,  I  became  quite  benumbed  and  chilled.  It  was 
rather  ticklish  work  coming  down  from  my  exalted 
position,  and  more  perilous  a  good  deal  than  it  had 
been  to  climb  up  to  it ;  but  I  managed  it  without 
accident,  and  reached  the  cabin  of  my  quartz-grinding 
friend  before  dark. 

Here  I  found  there  had  arrived  in  the  mean  time 
three  men  from  a  ranch  which  they  had  taken  up 
in  a  small  valley,  about  thirty  miles  farther  up  in  the 
mountains.  There  were  no  other  white  men  in  that 
direction,  and  this  cabin  was  the  nearest  habitation  to 
them.  They  had  come  in  with  six  or  seven  mule- 
loads  of  hay  for  the  use  of  the  unfortunate  animals 
who  were  kept  in  a  state  of  constant  revolution  in  the 
"  rasters." 



I  RETURNED  to  Downieville  the  next  day,  and  as  the 
weather  was  now  getting  rather  cold  and  disagree- 
able, and  I  did  not  wish  to  be  caught  quite  so  far 
up  in  the  mountains  by  the  rainy  season,  I  began  to 
make  my  way  down  the  river  again  to  more  acces- 
sible diggings. 

On  leaving,  I  took  a  trail  which  kept  along  the 
bank  of  the  river  for  some  miles,  before  striking  up 
to  the  mountain-ridge.  Immediately  below  the  town 
the  mountain  was  very  steep  and  smooth,  and  round 
this  wound  the  trail,  at  the  height  of  three  or  four 
hundred  feet  above  the  river.  It  was  a  mere  beaten 
path — so  narrow  that  two  men  could  not  walk 
abreast,  while  there  was  hardly  a  bush  or  a  tree 
to  interrupt  one's  progress  in  rolling  down  from  the 
trail  to  the  river. 

When  trains  of  pack-mules  met  at  this  place,  they 
had  the  greatest  difficulty  in  passing.  The  "  down 

SCENES   ON   THE   RIVER.  251 

train,"  being  of  course  unloaded,  had  to  give  way 
to  the  other.  The  mules  understood  their  own 
rights  perfectly  well.  Those  loaded  with  cargo 
kept  sturdily  to  the  trail,  while  the  empty  mules 
scrambled  up  the  bank,  where  they  stood  still  till 
the  others  had  passed.  It  not  unfrequently  hap- 
pened, however,  that  a  loaded  mule  got  crowded  off 
the  trail,  and  rolled  down  the  hill.  This  was  always 
the  last  journey  the  poor  mule  ever  performed.  The 
cargo  was  recovered  more  or  less  damaged,  but  the 
remnants  of  deceased  mules  on  the  rocks  down  below 
remained  as  a  warning  to  all  future  travellers.  It 
was  only  a  few  days  before  that  a  man  was  riding 
along  here,  when,  from  some  cause,  his  mule  stumbled 
and  fell  off  the  trail.  The  mule,  of  course,  went  as  a 
small  contribution  to  the  collection  of  skeletons  of 
mules  which  had  gone  before  him;  and  his  rider  would 
have  shared  the  same  fate,  had  he  not  fortunately  been 
arrested  in  his  progress  by  a  bush,  the  only  object  in 
his  course  which  could  possibly  have  saved  him. 

The  trail,  after  passing  this  spot,  kept  more  among 
the  rocks  on  the  river -side  ;  and  though  it  was 
rough  travelling,  the  difficulties  of  the  way  were 
beguiled  by  the  numbers  of  miners5  camps  through 
which  one  passed,  and  in  observing  the  different 
varieties  of  mining  operations  being  carried  on.  For 
miles  the  river  was  borne  along  in  a  succession  of 
flumes,  in  which  were  set  innumerable  water-wheels, 
for  working  all  sorts  of  pumps,  and  other  contriv- 
ances for  economising  labour.  The  bed  of  the  river 


was  alive  with  miners  ;  and  here  and  there,  in  the 
steep  banks,  were  rows  of  twenty  or  thirty  tunnels, 
out  of  which  came  constant  streams  of  men,  wheel- 
ing the  dirt  down  to  the  river-side,  to  be  washed  in 
their  long-toms. 

At  Goody  ear's  Bar,  which  is  a  place  of  some  size, 
the  trail  leaves  the  river,  and  ascends  a  mountain 
which  is  said  to  be  the  worst  in  that  part  of  the 
country,  and  for  my  part  I  was  quite  willing  to 
believe  it  was.  I  met  several  men  coming  down, 
who  were  all  anxious  to  know  if  they  were  near  the 
bottom.  I  was  equally  desirous  to  know  if  I  was 
near  the  top,  for  the  forest  of  pines  was  so  thick,, 
that,  looking  up,  one  could  only  get  a  glimpse  be- 
tween the  trees  of  the  zigzag  trail  far  above. 

About  half-way  up  the  mountain,  at  a  break  in  the 
ascent,  I  found  a  very  new  log-cabin  by  the  side  of  a 
little  stream  of  water.  It  bore  a  sign  about  as  large 
as  itself,  on  which  was  painted  the  "  Florida  House  ; " 
and  as  it  was  getting  dark,  and  the  next  house  was 
five  miles  farther  on,  I  thought  I  would  take  up  my 
quarters  here  for  the  night.  The  house  was  kept  by 
an  Italian,  or  an  "  Eyetalian,"  as  he  is  called  across 
the  Atlantic.  He  had  a  Yankee  wife,  with  a  lot  of 
children,  and  the  style  of  accommodation  was  as 
good  as  one  usually  found  in  such  places. 

I  was  the  only  guest  that  night ;  and  as  we  sat  by 
the  fire,  smoking  our  pipes  after  supper,  my  host, 
who  was  a  cheerful  sort  of  fellow,  became  very  com- 
municative. He  gave  me  an  interesting  account  of 

.      THE    ITALIAN   FIDDLE.  253 

his  California  experiences,  and  also  of  his  farming 
operations  in  the  States,  where  he  had  spent  the 
last  few  years  of  his  life.  Then,  going  backwards  in 
his  career,  he  told  me  that  he  had  lived  for  some 
years  in  England  and  Scotland,  and  spoke  of  many 
places  there  as  if  he  knew  them  well.  I  was  rather 
curious  to  know  in  what  capacity  such  an  exceed- 
ingly dingy -looking  individual  had  visited  all  the 
cities  of  the  kingdom,  but  he  seemed  to  wish  to  avoid 
cross  examination  on  the  subject,  so  I  did  not  press  him. 
He  became  intimately  connected  in  my  mind,  however, 
with  sundry  plaster-of-Paris  busts  of  Napoleon,  the 
Duke  of  Wellington,  Sir  Walter  Scott,  and  other 
distinguished  characters.  I  could  fancy  I  saw  the 
whole  collection  of  statuary  on  the  top  of  his  head, 
and  felt  very  much  inclined  to  shout  out  "  Images !" 
to  see  what  effect  it  would  have  upon  him. 

In  the  course  of  the  evening  he  asked  me  if  I 
would  like  to  hear  some  music,  saying  that  he  played 
a  little  on  the  Italian  fiddle.  J  said  I  would  be 
delighted,  particularly  as  I  did  not  know  the  instru- 
ment. The  only  national  fiddle  I  had  ever  heard  of 
was  the  Caledonian,  and  I  trusted  this  instrument  of 
his  was  a  different  sort  of  thing ;  but  I  was  very  much 
amused  when  it  turned  out  to  be  nothing  more  or 
less  than  a  genuine  orthodox  hurdy-gurdy.  It  put 
me  more  in  mind  of  home  than  anything  I  had  heard 
for  a  long  time.  At  the  first  note,  of  course,  the 
statuary  vanished,  and  was  replaced  by  a  vision  of 
an  unfortunate  monkey  in  a  red  coat,  while  my 


friend's  extensive  travels  in  the  United  Kingdom 
became  very  satisfactorily  accounted  for,  and  I 
thought  it  by  no  means  unlikely  that  this  was  not 
the  first  time  I  had  heard  the  sweet  strains  of  his 
Italian  fiddle.  He  played  several  of  the  standard  old 
tunes  ;  but  hurdy-gurdy  music  is  of  such  a  character 
that  a  little  of  it  goes  a  great  way ;  and  I  was  not 
sorry  when  a  couple  of  strings  snapped — to  the  great 
disgust,  however,  of  my  friend,  for  he  had  no  more 
with  which  to  replace  them. 

Hurdy-gurdy  player  or  not,  he  was  a  very  enter- 
taining agreeable  fellow.  I  only  hope  all  the  frater- 
nity are  like  him  (perhaps  they  are,  if  one  only  knew 
them),  and  attain  ultimately  to  such  a  respectable 
position  in  life,  dignifying  their  instruments  with  the 
name  of  Italian  fiddles,  and  reserving  them  for  the 
entertainment  of  their  particular  friends. 

I  was  on  my  way  to  Slate  Eange,  a  place  some 
distance  down  the  river,  but  the  next  day  I  only 
went  as  far  as  Oak  Valley,  travelling  the  last  few 
miles  with  a  young  fellow  from  one  of  the  Southern 
States,  whom  I  overtook  on  the  way.  He  had  been 
mining,  he  told  me,  at  Downieville,  and  was  now 
going  to  join  some  friends  of  his  at  a  place  some 
thirty  miles  off. 

At  supper  he  did  not  make  his  appearance,  which 
I  did  not  observe,  as  there  were  a  number  of  men  at 
table,  till  the  landlord  asked  me  if  that  young  fellow 
who  arrived  with  me  was  not  going  to  have  any 
supper,  and  suggested  that  perhaps  he  was  "  strap- 


ped,"  "  dead-broke " — Anglice,  without  a  cent  in  his 
pocket.  I  had  not  inferred  anything  of  the  sort  from 
his  conversation,  but  on  going  out  and  asking  him 
why  he  did  not  come  to  supper,  he  reluctantly  ad- 
mitted that  the  state  of  his  finances  would  not  admit 
of  it.  I  told  him,  in  the  language  of  Mr  Toots,  that 
it  was  of  no  consequence,  and  made  him  come  in, 
when  he  was  most  unceremoniously  lectured  by  the 
rest  of  the  party,  and  by  the  landlord  particularly, 
on  the  absurdity  of  his  intention  of  going  supperless 
to  bed  merely  because  he  happened  to  be  "  dead- 
broke,"  getting  at  the  same  time  some  useful  hints 
how  to  act  under  such  circumstances  in  future  from 
several  of  the  men  present,  who  related  how,  when 
they  had  found  themselves  in  such  a  predicament, 
they  had,  on  frankly  stating  the  fact,  been  made 
welcome  to  everything. 

To  be  "  dead-broke  "  was  really,  as  far  as  a  man's 
immediate  comfort  was  concerned,  a  matter  of  less 
importance  in  the  mines  than  in  almost  any  other 
place.  There  was  no  such  thing  as  being  out  of  em- 
ployment, where  every  man  employed  himself,  and 
could  always  be  sure  of  ample  remuneration  for  his 
day's  work.  But  notwithstanding  the  want  of  excuse 
for  being  "  strapped,"  it  was  very  common  to  find 
men  in  that  condition.  There  were  everywhere 
numbers  of  lazy  idle  men,  who  were  always  without  a 
dollar ;  and  others  reduced  themselves  to  that  state 
by  spending  their  time  and  money  on  claims  which, 
after  all,  yielded  them  no  return,  or  else  gradually 


exhausted  their  funds  in  travelling  about  the  country, 
and  prospecting,  never  satisfied  with  fair  average 
diggings,  but  always  having  the  idea  that  better  were 
to  be  found  elsewhere.  Few  miners  located  them- 
selves permanently  in  any  place,  and  there  was  a 
large  proportion  of  the  population  continually  on  the 
move.  In  almost  every  place  I  visited  in  the  mines, 
I  met  men  whom  I  had  seen  in  other  diggings. 
Some  men  I  came  across  frequently,  who  seemed  to 
do  nothing  but  wander  about  the  country,  satisfied 
with  asking  the  miners  in  the  different  diggings  how 
they  were  "making  out/'  but  without  ever  taking 
the  trouble  to  prospect  for  themselves. 

Coin  was  very  scarce,  what  there  was  being 
nearly  all  absorbed  by  the  gamblers,  who  required  it 
for  convenience  in  carrying  on  their  business.  Ordi- 
nary payments  were  made  in  gold  dust,  every  store 
being  provided  with  a  pair  of  gold  scales,  in  which 
the  miner  weighed  out  sufficient  dust  from  his  buck- 
skin purse  to  pay  for  his  purchases. 
.  In  general  trading,  gold  dust  was  taken  at  sixteen 
dollars  the  ounce ;  but  in  the  towns  and  villages,  at 
the  agencies  of  the  various  San  Francisco  bankers 
and  Express  Companies,  it  was  bought  at  a  higher 
price,  according  to  the  quality  of  the  dust,  and  as  it 
was  more  or  less  in  demand  for  remittance  to  New 

The  "  Express  "  business  of  the  United  States  is 
one  which  has  not  been  many  years  established,  and 
which  was  originally  limited  to  the  transmission  of 

"  EXPRESS "    COMPANIES.  257 

small  parcels  of  value.  On  the  discovery  of  gold  in 
California,  the  Express  houses  of  New  York  imme- 
diately established  agencies  in  San  Francisco,  and  at 
once  became  largely  engaged  in  transmitting  gold 
dust  to  the  mint  in  Philadelphia,  and  to  various  parts 
of  the  United  States,  on  account  of  the  owners  in 
California.  As  a  natural  result  of  doing  such  a  busi- 
ness, they  very  soon  began  to  sell  their  own  drafts  on 
New  York,  and  to  purchase  and  remit  gold  dust  on 
their  own  account. 

They  had  agencies  also  in  every  little  town  in  the 
mines,  where  they  enjoyed  the  utmost  confidence  of 
the  community,  receiving  deposits  from  miners  and 
others,  and  selling  drafts  on  the  Atlantic  States.  In 
fact,  besides  carrying  on  the  original  Express  busi- 
ness of  forwarding  goods  and  parcels,  and  keeping  up 
an  independent  post-office  of  their  own,  they  became 
also,  to  all  intents  and  purposes,  bankers,  and  did  as 
large  an  exchange  business  as  any  legitimate  banking 
firm  in  the  country. 

The  want  of  coin  was  equally  felt  in  San  Francisco, 
and  coins  of  all  countries  were  taken  into  circulation 
to  make  up  the  deficiency.  As  yet  a  mint  had  not 
been  granted  to  California,  but  there  was  a  Govern- 
ment Assay  Office,  which  issued  a  large  octagonal 
gold  piece  of  the  value  of  fifty  dollars  —  a  roughly 
executed  coin,  about  twice  the  bulk  of  a  crown-piece  ; 
while  the  greater  part  of  the  five,  ten,  and  twenty  dollar 
pieces  were  not  from  the  United  States  Mint,  but  were 
coined  and  issued  by  private  firms  in  San  Francisco. 


Silver  was  still  more  scarce,  and  many  pieces  were 
consequently  current  at  much  more  than  their  value. 
A  quarter  of  a  dollar  was  the  lowest  appreciable  sum 
represented  by  coin,  and  any  piece  approaching  it  in 
size  was  equally  current  at  the  same  rate.  A  franc 
passed  for  a  quarter  of  a  dollar,  while  a  five-franc 
piece  only  passed  for  a  dollar,  which  is  about  its 
actual  worth.  As  a  natural  consequence  of  francs 
being  thus  taken  at  25  per  cent  more  than  their 
real  value,  large  quantities  of  them  were  imported 
and  put  into  circulation.  In  1854,  however,  the 
bankers  refused  to  receive  them,  and  they  gradually 

There  was  wonderfully  little  precaution  taken  in 
conveying  the  gold  down  from  the  mountains,  and 
yet,  although  nothing  deserving  the  name  of  an  escort 
ever  accompanied  it,  I  never  knew  an  instance  of  an 
attack  upon  it  being  attempted.  On  several  occa- 
sions I  saw  the  Express  messenger  taking  down  a 
quantity  of  gold  from  Downieville.  He  and  another 
man,  both  well  mounted,  were  driving  a  mule  loaded 
with  leathern  sacks,  containing  probably  two  or  three 
hundred  pounds'  weight  of  gold.  They  were  well 
armed,  of  course ;  but  a  couple  of  robbers,  had  they 
felt  so  inclined,  might  easily  have  knocked  them  both 
over  with  their  rifles  in  the  solitude  of  the  forest, 
without  much  fear  of  detection.  Bad  as  California 
was,  it  appeared  a  proof  that  it  was  not  altogether 
such  a  country  as  was  generally  supposed,  when 
large  quantities  of  gold  were  thus  regularly  brought 

SLATE   KANGE.  259 

over  the  lonely  mountain-trails,  with  even  less  pro- 
tection than  would  have  been  thought  necessary  in 
many  parts  of  the  Old  World. 

From  Oak  Valley  I  went  down  to  Slate  Range 
with  an  American  who  was  anxious  I  should  visit 
his  camp  there.  After  climbing  down  the  mountain- 
side, we  at  last  reached  the  river,  which  here  was 
confined  between  huge  masses  of  slate  rock,  turning 
in  its  course,  and  disappearing  behind  bold  rocky 
points  so  abruptly,  that  seldom  could  more  of  the 
length  than  the  breadth  of  the  river  be  seen  at  a 

An  hour's  scrambling  over  the  sharp-edged  slate 
rocks  on  the  side  of  the  river  brought  us  to  his  camp, 
or  at  least  the  place  where  he  and  his  partners  camped 
out,  which  was  on  the  bare  rocks,  in  a  corner  so  over- 
shadowed by  the  steep  mountain  that  the  sun  never 
shone  upon  it.  It  was  certainly  the  least  luxurious 
habitation,  and  in  the  most  wild  and  rugged  locality, 
I  had  yet  seen  in  the  mines.  On  a  rough  board 
which  rested  on  two  stones  were  a  number  of  tin 
plates,  pannikins,  and  such  articles  of  table  furniture, 
while  a  few  flat  stones  alongside  answered  the  pur- 
pose of  chairs.  Scattered  about,  as  was  usual  in  all 
miners'  camps,  were  quantities  of  empty  tins  of  pre- 
served meats,  sardines,  and  oysters,  empty  bottles  of 
all  shapes  and  sizes,  innumerable  ham-bones,  old 
clothes,  and  other  rubbish.  Round  the  blackened 
spot  which  was  evidently  the  kitchen  were  pots  and 
frying-pans,  sacks  of  flour  and  beans,  and  other 

260  CAMPING   OUT. 

provisions,  together  with  a  variety  of  cans  and  bottles, 
of  which  no  one  could  tell  the  contents  without 
inspection  ;  for  in  the  mines  everything  is  perverted 
from  its  original  purpose,  butter  being  perhaps 
stowed  away  in  a  tin  labelled  "  fresh  lobsters/'  tea  in 
a  powder  canister,  and  salt  in  a  sardine-box. 

There  was  nothing  in  the  shape  of  a  tent  or 
shanty  of  any  sort ;  it  was  not  required  as  a  shelter 
from  the  heat  of  the  sun,  as  the  place  was  in  the  per- 
petual shade  of  the  mountain,  and  at  night  each  man 
rolled  himself  up  in  his  blankets,  and  made  a  bed 
of  the  smoothest  and  softest  piece  of  rock  he  could 

This  part  of  the  river  was  very  rich,  the  gold  being 
found  in  the  soft  slate  rock  between  the  layers  and 
in  the  crevices. 

My  friend  and  his  partners  were  working  in  a 
"  wing  dam  "  in  front  of  their  camp,  and  the  river, 
being  pushed  back  off  one  half  of  its  bed,  rushed 
past  in  a  roaring  torrent,  white  with  foam.  A  large 
water-wheel  was  set  in  it,  which  worked  several  pumps, 
and  a  couple  of  feet  above  it  lay  a  pine-tree,  which 
had  been  felled  there  so  as  to  serve  as  a  bridge.  The 
river  was  above  thirty  feet  wide,  and  the  tree,  not 
more  than  a  foot  and  a  half  in  diameter,  was  in  its 
original  condition,  perfectly  round  and  smooth,  and  was, 
moreover,  kept  constantly  wet  with  the  spray  from 
the  wheel,  which  was  so  close  that  one  could  almost 
touch  it  in  passing.  If  one  had  happened  to  slip  and 
fall  into  the  water,  he  would  have  had  about  as  much 


chance  of  coining  out  alive  as  if  he  had  fallen  before 
the  paddles  of  a  steamer  ;  and  any  gentleman  with 
shaky  legs  and  unsteady  nerves,  had  he  been  com- 
pelled to  pass  such  a  bridge,  would  most  probably 
have  got  astride  of  it,  and  so  worked  his  passage 
across.  In  the  mines,  however,  these  "pine-log 
crossings  "  were  such  a  very  common  style  of  bridge, 
that  every  one  was  used  to  them,  and  walked  them 
like  a  rope-dancer  :  in  fact,  there  was  a  degree  of 
pleasant  excitement  in  passing  a  very  slippery  and 
difficult  one  such  as  this. 



WHILE  at  this  camp,  I  went  down  the  river  two  or 
three  miles  to  see  a  place  called  Mississippi  Bar,  where 
a  company  of  Chinamen  were  at  work.  After  an 
hour's  climbing  along  the  rocky  banks,  and  having 
crossed  and  recrossed  the  river  some  half-dozen  times 
on  pine  logs,  I  at  last  got  down  among  the  Celestials. 

There  were  about  a  hundred  and  fifty  of  them 
here,  living  in  a  perfect  village  of  small  tents,  all 
clustered  together  on  the  rocks.  They  had  a  claim 
in  the  bed  of  the  river,  which  they  were  working  by 
means  of  a  wing  dam.  A  "  wing  dam,"  I  may  here 
mention,  is  one  which  first  runs  half-way  across  the 
river,  then  down  the  river,  and  back  again  to  the 
same  side,  thus  damming  off  a  portion  of  its  bed 
without  the  necessity  of  the  more  expensive  operation 
of  lifting  up  the  whole  river  bodily  in  a  "  flume." 

The  Chinamen's  dam  was  two  or  three  hundred 


yards  in  length,  and  was  built  of  large  pine-trees 
laid  one  on  the  top  of  the  other.  They  must  have 
had  great  difficulty  in  handling  such  immense  logs 
in  such  a  place  ;  but  they  are  exceedingly  ingenious 
in  applying  mechanical  power,  particularly  in  con- 
centrating the  force  of  a  large  number  of  men  upon 
one  point. 

There  were  Chinamen  of  the  better  class  among 
them,  who  no  doubt  directed  the  work,  and  paid  the 
common  men  very  poor  wages — poor  at  least  for  Cali- 
fornia. A  Chinaman  could  be  hired  for  two,  or  at 
most  three  dollars  a-day  by  any  one  who  thought 
their  labour  worth  so  much  ;  but  those  at  work  here 
were  most  likely  paid  at  a  still  lower  rate,  for  it  was 
well  known  that  whole  shiploads  of  Chinamen  came 
to  the  country  under  a  species  of  bondage  to  some 
of  their  wealthy  countrymen  in  San  Francisco,  who, 
immediately  on  their  arrival,  shipped  them  off  to  the 
mines  under  charge  of  an  agent,  keeping  them  com- 
pletely under  control  by  some  mysterious  celestial 
influence,  quite  independent  of  the  laws  of  the  country. 

They  sent  up  to  the  mines  for  their  use  supplies  of 
Chinese  provisions  and  clothing,  and  thus  all  the 
gold  taken  out  by  them  remained  in  Chinese  hands, 
and  benefited  the  rest  of  the  community  but  little 
by  passing  through  the  ordinary  channels  of  trade. 

In  fact,  the  Chinese  formed  a  distinct  class,  which 
enriched  itself  at  the  expense  of  the  country,  ab- 
stracting a  large  portion  of  its  latent  wealth  without 
contributing,  in  a  degree  commensurate  with  their 


numbers,  to  the  prosperity  of  the  community  of 
which  they  formed  a  part. 

The  individuals  of  any  community  must  exist  by 
supplying  the  wants  of  others ;  and  when  a  man 
neither  does  this,  nor  has  any  wants  of  his  own  but 
those  which  he  provides  for  himself,  he  is  of  no  use  to 
his  neighbours  ;  but  when,  in  addition  to  this,  he  also 
diminishes  the  productiveness  of  the  country,  he  is  a 
positive  disadvantage  in  proportion  to  the  amount 
of  public  wealth  which  he  engrosses,  and  becomes  a 
public  nuisance. 

What  is  true  of  an  individual  is  true  also  of  a  class ; 
and  the  Chinese,  though  they  were  no  doubt,  as  far 
as  China  was  concerned,  both  productive  and  con- 
sumptive, were  considered  by  a  very  large  party  in 
California  to  be  merely  destructive  as  far  as  that 
country  was  interested. 

They  were,  of  course,  not  altogether  so,  for  such  a 
numerous  body  as  they  were  could  not  possibly  be  so 
isolated  as  to  be  entirely  independent  of  others  ;  but 
any  advantage  which  the  country  derived  from  their 
presence  was  too  dearly  paid  for  by  the  quantity  of 
gold  which  they  took  from  it ;  and  the  propriety  of 
expelling  all  the  Chinese  from  the  State  was  long 
discussed,  both  by  the  press  and  in  the  Legislature  ; 
but  the  principles  of  the  American  constitution  pre- 
vailed ;  the  country  was  open  to  all  the  world,  and 
the  Chinese  enjoyed  equal  rights  with  the  most 
favoured  nation.  In  some  parts  of  the  mines,  how- 
ever, the  miners  had  their  own  ideas  on  the  subject, 


and  would  not  allow  the  Chinamen  to  come  among 
them ;  but  generally  they  were  not  interfered  with, 
for  they  contented  themselves  with  working  such 
poor  diggings  as  it  was  not  thought  worth  while  to 
take  from  them. 

This  claim  on  the  Yuba  was  the  greatest  under- 
taking I  ever  saw  attempted  by  them. 

They  expended  a  vast  deal  of  unnecessary  labour 
in  their  method  of  working,  and  their  individual 
labour,  in  effect,  was  as  nothing  compared  with  that 
of  other  miners.  A  company  of  fifteen  or  twenty 
white  men  would  have  wing-dammed  this  claim,  and 
worked  it  out  in  two  or  three  months,  while  here 
were  about  a  hundred  and  fifty  Chinamen  humbug- 
ging round  it  all  the  season,  and  still  had  not  worked 
one  half  the  ground. 

Their  mechanical  contrivances  were  not  in  the 
usual  rough  straightforward  style  of  the  mines ; 
they  were  curious,  and  very  elaborately  got  up,  but 
extremely  wasteful  of  labour,  and,  moreover,  very 

The  pumps  which  they  had  at  work  here  were  an 
instance  of  this.  They  were  on  the  principle  of  a 
chain-pump,  the  chain  being  formed  of  pieces  of  wood 
about  six  inches  long,  hingeing  on  each  other,  with 
cross-pieces  in  the  middle  for  buckets,  having  about 
six  square  inches  of  surface.  The  hinges  fitted  ex- 
actly to  the  spokes  of  a  small  wheel,  which  was 
turned  by  a  Chinaman  at  each  side  of  it  working  a 
miniature  treadmill  of  four  spokes  on  the  same  axle. 


As  specimens  of  joiner- work  they  were  very  pretty, 
but  as  pumps  they  were  ridiculous ;  they  threw  a 
mere  driblet  of  water  :  the  chain  was  not  even  en- 
cased in  a  box — it  merely  lay  in  a  slanting  trough, 
so  that  more  than  one  half  the  capacity  of  the  buckets 
was  lost.  An  American  miner,  at  the  expenditure 
of  one-tenth  part  of  the  labour  of  making  such  toys, 
would  have  set  a  water-wheel  in  the  river  to  work 
an  elevating  pump,  which  would  have  thrown  more 
water  in  half  an  hour  than  four-and-twenty  China- 
men could  throw  in  a  day  with  a  dozen  of  these  gim- 
crack  contrivances.  Their  camp  was  wonderfully 
clean  :  when  I  passed  through  it,  I  found  a  great 
many  of  them  at  their  toilet,  getting  their  heads 
shaved,  or  plaiting  each  other's  pigtails  ;  but  most  of 
them  were  at  dinner,  squatted  on  the  rocks  in  groups 
of  eight  or  ten  round  a  number  of  curious  little  black 
pots  and  dishes,  from  which  they  helped  themselves 
with  their  chopsticks.  In  the  centre  was  a  large 
bowl  of  rice.  This  is  their  staple  article,  and  they 
devour  it  most  voraciously.  Throwing  back  their 
heads,  they  hold  a  large  cupful  to  their  wide-open 
mouths,  and,  with  a  quick  motion  of  the  chopsticks 
in  the  other  hand,  they  cause  the  rice  to  flow  down 
their  throats  in  a  continuous  stream. 

I  received  several  invitations  to  dinner,  but  de- 
clined the  pleasure,  preferring  to  be  a  spectator.  The 
rice  looked  well  enough,  and  the  rest  of  their  dishes 
were  no  doubt  very  clean,  but  they  had  a  very 
dubious  appearance,  and  were  far  from  suggesting 

A   CHINESE   STOKE.  267 

the  idea  of  being  good  to  eat.  In  the  store  I  found 
the  storekeeper  lying  asleep  on  a  mat.  He  was  a 
sleek  dirty -looking  object,  like  a  fat  pig  with  the 
hair  scalded  off,  his  head  being  all  close  shaved 
excepting  the  pigtail.  His  opium-pipe  lay  in  his 
hand,  and  the  lamp  still  burned  beside  him,  so  I 
supposed  he  was  already  in  the  seventh  heavens. 
The  store  was  like  other  stores  in  the  mines,  inas- 
much as  it  contained  a  higgledy-piggledy  collection 
of  provisions  and  clothing,  but  everything  was 
Chinese  excepting  the  boots.  These  are  the  only 
articles  of  barbarian  costume  which  the  Chinaman 
adopts,  and  he  always  wears  them  of  an  enormous 
size,  on  a  scale  commensurate  with  the  ample  capacity 
of  his  other  garments. 

The  next  place  I  visited  was  Wamba's  Bar,  some 
miles  lower  down  the  river ;  and  from  here  I  intended 
returning  to  Nevada,  as  the  season  was  far  advanced, 
and  fine  weather  could  no  longer  be  depended  upon. 

The  very  day,  however,  on  which  I  was  to  start, 
the  rain  commenced,  and  came  down  in  such  torrents 
that  I  postponed  my  departure.  It  continued  to 
rain  heavily  for  several  days,  and  I  had  no  choice  but 
to  remain  where  I  was,  as  the  river  rose  rapidly  to 
such  a  height  as  to  be  perfectly  impassable.  It  was 
now  about  eighty  yards  wide,  and  rushed  past  in  a 
raging  torrent,  the  waves  rolling  several  feet  high. 
Some  of  the  miners  up  above,  trusting  to  a  longer 
continuance  of  the  dry  season,  had  not  removed 
their  flumes  from  the  river,  and  these  it  was  now 

268  THE    RIVER    IN    A   FLOOD. 

carrying  down,  all  broken  up  into  fragments,  along 
with  logs  and  whole  pine-trees,  which  occasionally, 
as  they  got  foul  of  other  objects,  reared  straight  up 
out  of  the  water.  It  was  a  grand  sight ;  the  river 
seemed  as  if  it  had  suddenly  arisen  to  assert  its 
independence,  and  take  vengeance  for  all  the  re- 
straints which  had  been  placed  upon  it,  by  demo- 
lishing flumes,  dams,  and  bridges,  and  carrying  off 
everything  within  its  reach. 

The  house  I  was  staying  in  was  the  only  one  in 
the  neighbourhood,  and  was  a  sort  of  half  store,  half 
boarding-house.  Several  miners  lived  in  it,  and  there 
were,  besides,  two  or  three  storm-stayed  travellers 
like  myself.  It  was  a  small  clapboard  house,  built 
on  a  rock  immediately  over  the  river,  but  still  so  far 
above  it  that  we  anticipated  no  danger  from  the 
flood.  We  were  close  to  the  mouth  of  a  creek,  how- 
ever, which  we  one  night  fully  expected  would  send 
the  house  on  a  voyage  of  discovery  down  the  river. 
Some  drift -logs  up  above  had  got  jammed,  and  so 
altered  the  course  of  the  stream  as  to  bring  it  sweep- 
ing past  the  corner  of  the  house,  which  merely  rested 
on  a  number  of  posts.  The  waters  rose  to  within 
an  inch  or  two  of  the  floor ;  and  as  they  carried  logs 
and  rocks  along  with  them,  we  feared  that  the  posts 
would  be  carried  away,  when  the  whole  fabric  would 
immediately  slip  off  the  rocks  into  the  angry  river  a 
few  feet  below.  There  was  a  small  window  at  one 
end  through  which  we  might  have  escaped,  and  this 
was  taken  out  that  no  time  might  be  lost  when  the 

NEVADA   CITY.  269 

moment  for  clearing  out  should  arrive,  while  axes 
also  were  kept  in  readiness,  to  smash  through  the 
back  of  the  house,  which  rested  on  terra  firma.  It 
was  an  exceedingly  dark  night,  very  cold,  and  rain- 
ing cats  and  dogs,  so  that  the  prospect  of  having  to 
jump  out  of  the  window  and  sit  on  the  rocks  till 
morning  was  by  no  means  pleasant  to  contemplate  ; 
but  the  idea  of  being  washed  into  the  river  was  still 
less  agreeable,  and  no  one  ventured  to  sleep,  as  the 
water  was  already  almost  up  to  the  floor,  and  a  very 
slight  rise  would  have  smashed  up  the  whole  concern 
so  quickly,  that  it  was  best  to  be  on  the  alert.  The 
house  fortunately  stood  it  out  bravely  till  daylight, 
when  some  of  the  party  put  an  end  to  the  danger  by 
going  up  the  creek,  and  removing  the  accumulation 
of  logs  which  had  turned  the  water  from  its  proper 

After  the  rain  ceased,  we  had  to  wait  for  two 
days  till  the  river  fell  sufficiently  to  allow  of  its 
being  crossed  with  any  degree  of  safety  ;  but  on  the 
third  day,  along  with  another  man  who  was  going  to 
Nevada,  I  made  the  passage  in  a  small  skiff — not 
without  considerable  difficulty,  however,  for  the  river 
was  still  much  swollen,  and  covered  with  logs  and 
drift-wood.  On  landing  on  the  other  side,  we  struck 
straight  up  the  face  of  the  mountain,  and  soon  gained 
the  high  land,  where  we  found  a  few  inches  of  snow  fast 
disappearing  before  the  still  powerful  rays  of  the  sun. 

We  arrived  at  Nevada  after  a  day  and  a  half  of 
very  muddy  travelling,  but  the  weather  was  bright 


and  clear,  and  seemed  to  be  a  renewal  of  the  dry  sea- 
son. It  did  not  last  long,  however,  for  a  heavy-  snow- 
storm soon  set  in,  and  it  continued  snowing,  raining, 
and  freezing  for  about  three  weeks, — the  snow  lying 
on  the  ground  all  the  time,  to  the  depth  of  three  or 
four  feet.  The  continuance  of  such  weather  rendered 
the  roads  so  impracticable  as  to  cut  off  all  supplies 
from  Marysville  or  Sacramento,  and  accordingly 
prices  of  provisions  of  all  kinds  rose  enormously. 
The  miners  could  not  work  with  so  much  snow  on  the 
ground,  and  altogether  there  was  a  prospect  of  hard 
times.  Flour  was  exceedingly  high  even  in  San 
Francisco,  several  capitalists  having  entered  into  a 
flour -monopoly  speculation,  buying  up  every  cargo 
as  it  arrived,  and  so  keeping  up  the  price.  In  Nevada 
it  was  sold  at  a  dollar  a-pound,  and  in  other  places 
farther  up  in  the  mountains  it  was  doled  out,  as 
long  as  the  stock  lasted,  at  three  or  four  times  that 
price.  In  many  parts  the  people  were  reduced  to 
the  utmost  distress  from  the  scarcity  of  food,  and  the 
impossibility  of  obtaining  any  fresh  supplies.  At 
Downieville,  the  few  men  who  had  remained  there 
were  living  on  barley,  a  small  stock  of  which  was 
fortunately  kept  there  as  mule-feed.  Several  men 
perished  in  the  snow  in  trying  to  make  their  escape 
from  distant  camps  in  the  mountains  ;  two  or  three 
lost  their  lives  near  the  ranch  of  my  friend  the  Italian 
hurdy-gurdy  player,  while  carrying  flour  down  to 
their  camps  on  the  river  ;  and  in  some  places  people 


saved  themselves  from  starvation  by  eating  dogs  and 

Men  kept  pouring  into  Nevada  from  all  quarters, 
starved  out  of  their  own  camps,  and  all  bearing  the 
same  tale  of  starvation  and  distress,  and  glad  to  get 
to  a  place  where  food  was  to  be  had.  The  town,  being 
a  sort  of  harbour  of  refuge  for  miners  in  remote 
diggings,  became  very  full;  and  as  no  work  could  be 
done  in  such  weather,  the  population  had  nothing  to 
do  but  to  amuse  themselves  the  best  way  they  could. 
A  theatrical  company  were  performing  nightly  to 
crowded  houses  ;  the  gambling  saloons  were  kept  in 
full  blast ;  and  in  fact,  every  day  was  like  a  Sunday, 
from  the  number  of  men  one  saw  idling  about,  play- 
ing cards,  and  gambling. 

Although  the  severity  of  the  weather  interrupted 
mining  operations  for  the  time,  it  was  nevertheless  a 
subject  of  rejoicing  to  the  miners  generally,  for  many 
localities  could  only  be  worked  when  plenty  of  water 
was  running  in  the  ravines,  and  it  was  not  unusual 
for  men  to  employ  themselves  in  the  dry  season  in 
"  throwing  up  "  heaps  of  dirt,  in  anticipation  of  hav- 
ing plenty  of  water  in  winter  to  wash  it.  This  was 
commonly  done  in  flats  and  ravines  where  water 
could  only  be  had  immediately  after  heavy  rains. 
It  was  easy  to  distinguish  a  heap  of  thrown-up  dirt 
from  a  pile  of  "  tailings/'  or  dirt  already  washed,  and 
property  of  this  sort  was  quite  sacred,  the  gold 
being  not  less  safe  there — perhaps  safer — than  if 


already  in  the  pocket  of  the  owner.  In  whatever 
place  a  man  threw  up  a  pile  of  dirt,  he  might  leave  it 
without  any  concern  for  its  safety,  and  remove  to 
another  part  of  the  country,  being  sure  to  find  it 
intact  when  he  returned  to  wash  it,  no  matter  how 
long  he  might  be  absent. 



I  HAD  occasion  to  return  to  San  Francisco  at  this 
time,  and  the  journey  was  about  the  most  unpleasant 
I  ever  performed.  The  roads  had  been  getting  worse 
all  the  time,  and  were  quite  impassable  for  stages  or 
waggons.  The  mail  was  brought  up  by  express 
messengers,  but  other  communication  there  was  none. 
The  nearest  route  to  San  Francisco — that  by  Sacra- 
mento— was  perfectly  impracticable,  and  the  only 
way  to  get  down  there  was  by  Marysville,  situated 
about  fifty  miles  off,  at  the  junction  of  the  Yuba 
and  Feather  rivers. 

I  set  out  one  afternoon  with  a  friend  who  was  also 
going  down,  and  who  knew  the  way,  which  was 
rather  an  advantage,  as  the  trails  were  hidden  under 
three  or  four  feet  of  snow.  We  occasionally,  how- 
ever, got  the  benefit  of  a  narrow  path,  trodden  down 


by  other  travellers  ;  and  though  we  only  made  twelve 
miles  that  day,  we  in  that  distance  gradually  emerged 
from  the  snow,  and  got  down  into  the  regions  of 
mud  and  slush  and  rain.  We  stayed  the  night  at 
a  road-side  house,  where  we  found  twenty  or  thirty 
miners  starved  out  of  their  own  camps,  and  in  the 
morning  we  resumed  our  journey  in  a  steady  pour  of 
rain.  The  mud  was  more  than  ankle-deep,  but  was 
so  well  diluted  with  water  that  it  did  not  cause 
much  inconvenience  in  walking,  while  at  the  foot  of 
every  little  hollow  was  a  stream  to  be  waded  waist- 
high  ;  for  we  were  now  out  of  the  mining  regions, 
and  crossing  the  rolling  country  between  the  moun- 
tains and  the  plains,  where  the  water  did  not  run  off 
so  quickly. 

When  we  reached  the  only  large  stream  on  our 
route,  we  found  that  the  bridge,  which  had  been  the 
usual  means  of  crossing,  had  been  carried  away,  and 
the  banks  on  either  side  were  overflowed  to  a  con- 
siderable distance.  A  pine-tree  had  been  felled 
across  when  the  waters  were  lower,  but  they  now 
flowed  two  or  three  feet  over  the  top  of  it — the  only 
sign  that  it  was  there  being  the  branches  sticking  up, 
and  marking  its  course  across  the  river. 

It  was  not  very  pleasant  to  have  to  cross  such  a 
swollen  stream  on  such  a  very  visionary  bridge,  but 
there  was  no  help  for  it;  so,  cutting  sticks  wherewith 
to  feel  for  a  footing  under  water,  we  waded  out  till 
we  reached  the  original  bank  of  the  stream,  where 
we  had  to  take  to  the  pine  log,  and  travel  it  as  best 


we  could  with  the  assistance  of  the  branches,  the 
water  rushing  past  nearly  up  to  our  waists.  We  had 
fifty  or  sixty  feet  to  go  in  this  way,  but  the  farther 
end  of  the  log  rose  nearly  to  the  surface  of  the 
water,  and  landed  us  on  an  island,  from  which  we 
had  to  pass  to  dry  land  through  a  thicket  of  bushes 
under  four  feet  of  water. 

Towards  evening  we  arrived  at  a  ranch,  about 
twenty  miles  from  Marysville,  which  we  made  the 
end  of  our  day's  journey.  We  were  saturated  with 
rain  and  mud,  but  dry  clothes  were  not  to  be  had  ; 
so  we  were  obliged  to  pass  another  night  under 
hydropathic  treatment,  the  natural  consequence  of 
which  was,  that  in  the  morning  we  were  stiff  and 
sore  all  over.  However,  after  walking  a  short  dis- 
tance, we  got  rid  of  this  sensation— receiving  a  fresh 
ducking  from  the  rain,  which  continued  to  fall  as 
heavily  as  ever. 

The  plains,  which  we  had  now  reached,  were 
almost  entirely  under  water,  and  at  every  depression 
in  the  surface  of  the  ground  a  slough  had  to  be 
waded  of  corresponding  depth — sometimes  over  the 
waist.  The  road  was  only  in  some  places  discernible, 
and  we  kept  to  it  chiefly  by  steering  for  the  houses, 
to  be  seen  at  intervals  of  a  few  miles. 

About  six  miles  from  Marysville  we  crossed  the 
Yuba,  which  was  here  a  large  rapid  river  a  hundred 
yards  wide.  We  were  ferried  over  in  a  little  skiff, 
and  had  to  pull  up  the  river  nearly  half  a  mile,  so  as 
to  fetch  the  landing  on  the  other  side.  I  was  not 


sorry  to  reach  terra  firma  again,  such  as  it  was,  for 
the  boat  was  a  flat-bottomed,  straight-sided  little 
thing,  about  the  size  and  shape  of  a  coffin,  and  was 
quite  unsuitable  for  such  work.  The  waves  were 
running  so  high  that  it  was  with  the  utmost  diffi- 
culty we  escaped  being  swamped,  and  all  the  swim- 
ming that  could  have  been  done  in  such  a  current 
would  not  have  done  any  one  much  good. 

From  this  point  to  Marysville  the  country  was  still 
more  flooded.  We  passed  several  teams,  which,  in  a 
vain  endeavour  to  get  up  to  the  mountains  with  sup- 
plies, were  hopelessly  stuck  in  the  mud  at  the  bot- 
tom of  the  hollows,  with  only  the  rim  of  the  wheels 
appearing  above  water. 

Marysville  is  a  city  of  some  importance  :  being 
situated  at  the  head  of  navigation,  it  is  the  depot 
and  starting  -  point  for  the  extensive  district  of 
mining  country  lying  north  and  east  of  it.  It  is 
well  laid  out  in  wide  streets,  containing  numbers 
of  large  brick  and  wooden  buildings,  and  the 
ground  it  stands  upon  is  ten  or  twelve  feet  above 
the  usual  level  of  the  river.  But  when  we  waded 
up  to  it,  we  found  the  portion  of  the  town  nearest 
the  river  completely  flooded,  the  water  being  nearly 
up  to  the  first  floor  of  the  houses,  while  the  people 
were  going  about  in  boats.  In  the  streets  farther 
back,  however,  it  was  not  so  bad ;  one  could  get 
along  without  having  to  go  much  over  the  ankles. 
The  appearance  of  the  place,  as  seen  through  the 
heavy  rain,  was  far  from  cheering.  The  first  idea 


which  occurred  to  me  on  beholding  it  was  that  of; 
rheumatism,  and  the  second  fever  and  ague ;  but  L 
was  glad  to  find  myself  here,  nevertheless,  if  only  to 
experience  once  more  the  sensation  of  having  on  dry 

I  learned  that  several  men  had  been  drowned  on 
different  parts  of  the  plains  in  attempting  to  cross 
some  of  the  immense  pools  or  sloughs  such  as  we 
had  passed  on  our  way ;  while  cattle  and  horses 
were  drowned  in  numbers,  and  were  dying  of  starva- 
tion on  insulated  spots,  from  which  there  was  no 

I  saw  plenty  of  this,  however,  the  next  day  in 
going  down  by  the  steamboat  to  Sacramento.  The 
distance  is  fifty  or  sixty  miles  through  the  plains  all 
the  way,  but  they  had  now  more  the  appearance  of  a 
vast  inland  sea. 

It  would  have  been  difficult  to  keep  to  the  chan- 
nel of  the  river,  had  it  not  been  for  the  trees 
appearing  on  each  side,  and  the  numbers  of  squat- 
ters' shanties  generally  built  on  a  spot  where  the 
bank  was  high  and  showed  itself  above  water, 
though  in  many  cases  nothing  but  the  roof  of  the 
cabin  could  be  seen. 

On  the  tops  of  the  cabins  and  sheds,  on  piles  of 
firewood,  or  up  in  the  trees,  were  fowls  calmly 
waiting  their  doom  ;  while  pigs,  cows,  and  horses 
were  all  huddled  up  together,  knee -deep  in  water, 
on  any  little  rising-ground  which  offered  standing- 
room,  dying  by  inches  from  inanition.  The  squat-? 


ters  themselves  were  busy  removing  in  boats  what- 
ever property  they  could,  and  at  those  cabins  whose 
occupants  were  not  yet  completely  drowned  out,  a 
boat  was  made  fast  alongside  as  a  means  of  escape 
for  the  poor  devils,  who,  as  the  steamer  went  past, 
looked  out  of  the  door  the  very  pictures  of  woe  and 
dismay.  We  saw  two  men  sitting  resolutely  on  the 
top  of  their  cabin,  the  water  almost  up  to  their  feet ; 
a  boat  was  made  fast  to  the  chimney,  to  be  used 
when  the  worst  came  to  the  worst,  but  they  were 
apparently  determined  to  see  it  out  if  possible. 
They  looked  intensely  miserable,  though  they  would 
not  own  it,  for  they  gave  us  a  very  feigned  and 
uncheery  hurrah  as  we  steamed  past. 

The  loss  sustained  by  these  settlers  was  very 
great.  The  inconvenience  of  being  for  a  time 
floated  off  the  face  of  the  earth  in  a  small  boat  was 
bad  enough  of  itself;  but  to  have  the  greater  part  of 
their  worldly  possessions  floating  around  them,  in  the 
shape  of  the  corpses  of  what  had  been  their  live 
stock,  must  have  rather  tended  to  damp  their  spirits. 
However,  Calif ornians  are  proof  against  all  such 
reverses, — they  are  like  India-rubber,  the  more  se- 
verely they  are  cast  down,  the  higher  they  rise  after- 

It  was  hardly  possible  to  conceive  what  an  amount 
of  rain  and  snow  must  have  fallen  to  lay  such  a  vast 
extent  of  country  under  water ;  and  though  the 
weather  was  now  improving,  the  rain  being  not  so 
constant,  or  so  heavy,  it  would  still  be  some  time 


before  the  waters  could  subside,  as  the  snow  which 
had  fallen  in  the  mountains  had  yet  to  find  its  way 
down,  and  would  serve  to  keep  up  the  flood. 

Sacramento  City  was  in  as  wretched  a  plight  as  a 
city  can  well  be  in. 

The  only  dry  land  to  be  seen  was  the  top  of  the 
levee  built  along  the  bank  of  the  river  in  front  of  the 
town ;  all  the  rest  was  water,  out  of  which  rose  the 
houses,  or  at  least  the  upper  parts  of  them.  The 
streets  were  all  so  many  canals  crowded  with  boats 
and  barges  carrying  on  the  customary  traffic  ;  water- 
men plied  for  hire  in  the  streets  instead  of  cabs,  and 
independent  gentlemen  poled  themselves  about  on 
rafts,  or  on  extemporised  boats  made  of  empty 
boxes.  In  one  part  of  the  town,  where  the  water 
was  not  deep  enough  for  general  navigation,  a  very 
curious  style  of  conveyance  was  in  use.  Pairs  of 
horses  were  harnessed  to  large  flat-bottomed  boats, 
and  numbers  of  these  vehicles,  carrying  passengers 
or  goods,  were  to  be  seen  cruising  about,  now  dash- 
ing through  a  foot  or  two  of  mud  which  the  horses 
made  to  fly  in  all  directions  as  they  floundered 
through  it,  now  grounding  and  bumping  over  some 
very  dry  spot,  and  again  sailing  gracefully  along  the 
top  of  the  water,  so  deep  as  nearly  to  cover  the 
horses'  backs. 

The  water  in  the  river  was  some  feet  higher  than 
that  in  the  town,  and  it  was  fortunate  that  the  levee 
did  not  give  way,  or  the  loss  of  life  would  have  been 
very  great.  As  it  was,  some  few  men  had  been 


drowned  in  the  streets.  The  destruction  of  property, 
and  the  pecuniary  loss  to  the  inhabitants,  were  of 
course  enormous,  but  they  had  been  flooded  once  or 
twice  before,  besides  having  several  times  had  their 
city  burned  down,  and  were  consequently  quite  used 
to  such  disasters  ;  in  fact,  Sacramento  suffered  more 
from  fire  and  flood  together  than  any  city  in  the 
State,  without,  however,  apparently  retarding  the 
growing  prosperity  of  the  people. 

I  arrived  in  Sacramento  too  late  for  the  steamer 
for  San  Francisco,  and  so  had  the  pleasure  of  passing 
a  night  there,  but  I  cannot  say  I  experienced  any 
personal  inconvenience  from  the  watery  condition  of 
the  town. 

It  seemed  to  cause  very  little  interruption  to  the 
usual  order  of  things  in  hotels,  theatres,  and  other 
public  places  ;  there  was  a  good  deal  of  anxiety  as  to 
the  security  of  the  levee,  in  which  was  the  only  safety 
of  the  city ;  but  in  the  mean  time  the  ordinary  course 
of  pleasure  and  business  was  unchanged,  except  in 
the  substitution  of  boats  for  wheeled  vehicles ;  and 
the  great  source  of  consolation  and  congratulation 
to  the  sufferers  from  the  flood,  and  to  the  population 
generally,  was  in  endeavouring  to  compute  how  many 
millions  of  rats  would  be  drowned. 

On  arriving  in  San  Francisco  the  change  was  very 
great — it  was  like  entering  a  totally  different  coun- 
try. In  place  of  cold  and  rain  and  snow,  flooded 
towns,  and  no  dry  land,  or  snowed-up  towns  in  the 


mountains  with  no  food,  here  was  a  clear  bright  sky, 
and  a  warm  sun  shining  down  upon  a  city  where 
everything  looked  bright  and  gay.  It  was  nearly  a 
year  since  I  had  left  San  Francisco,  and  in  the  mean 
time  the  greater  part  of  it  had  been  burned  down 
and  rebuilt.  The  appearance  of  most  of  the  prin- 
cipal streets  was  completely  altered ;  large  brick 
stores  had  taken  the  place  of  wooden  buildings  ;  and 
so  rapidly  had  the  city  extended  itself  into  the  bay, 
that  the  principal  business  was  now  conducted  on 
wide  streets  of  solid  brick  and  stone  warehouses, 
where  a  year  before  had  been  fifteen  or  twenty  feet  of 
water.  All,  excepting  the  more  unfrequented  streets, 
were  planked,  and  had  good  stone  or  plank  side-walks, 
so  that  there  was  but  little  mud  notwithstanding  the 
heavy  rains  which  had  fallen.  In  the  upper  part  of 
the  town,  however,  where  the  streets  were  still  in 
their  original  condition,  the  amount  of  mud  was  quite 
inconceivable.  Some  places  were  almost  impassable, 
and  carts  might  be  seen  almost  submerged,  which 
half-a-dozen  horses  were  vainly  trying  to  extricate. 

The  climate  of  San  Francisco  has  the  peculiarity  of 
being  milder  in  winter  than  in  summer.  Winter  is  by 
far  the  most  pleasant  season  of  the  year  It  is  cer- 
tainly the  rainy  season,  but  it  only  rains  occasionally, 
and  when  it  does  it  is  not  cold.  The  ordinary  winter 
weather  is  soft,  mild,  subdued  sunshine,  not  unlike 
the  Indian  summer  of  North  America.  The  San 
Francisco  summer,  however,  is  the  most  disagreeable 


and  trying  season  one  can  be  subjected  to.  In  the 
morning  and  forenoon  it  is  generally  beautifully 
bright  and  warm  :  one  feels  inclined  to  dress  as  one 
would  in  the  tropics ;  but  this  cannot  be  done  with 
safety,  for  one  has  to  be  prepared  for  the  sudden 
change  in  temperature  which  occurs  nearly  every  day 
towards  the  afternoon,  when  there  blows  in  off  the 
sea  a  cold  biting  wind,  chilling  the  very  marrow  in 
one's  bones.  The  cold  is  doubly  felt  after  the  heat  of 
the  fore  part  of  the  day,  and  to  some  constitutions 
such  extreme  variations  of  temperature  within  the 
twenty-four  hours  are  no  doubt  very  injurious,  espe- 
cially as  the  wind  not  unfrequently  brings  a  damp 
fog  along  with  it. 

The  climate  is  nevertheless  generally  considered 
salubrious,  and  is  thought  by  some  people  to  be  one 
of  the  finest  in  the  world.  For  my  own  part,  I  much 
prefer  the  summer  weather  of  the  mines,  where  the 
sky  is  always  bright,  and  the  warm  temperature  of 
the  day  becomes  only  comparatively  cool  at  night, 
while  the  atmosphere  is  so  dry,  that  the  heat,  however 
intense,  is  never  oppressive,  and  so  clear  that  every- 
thing within  the  range  of  vision  is  as  clearly  and  dis- 
tinctly seen  as  if  one  were  looking  upon  a  flat  sur- 
face, and  could  equally  examine  each  separate  part  of 
it,  so  satisfactory  and  so  minute  in  detail  is  the  view 
of  the  most  distant  objects. 

Considering  the  very  frequent  use  of  pistols  in  San 
Francisco,  it  is  a  most  providential  circumstance  that 


the  climate  is  in  a  high  degree  favourable  for  the 
cure  of  gunshot  wounds.  These  in  general  heal  very 
rapidly,  and  many  miraculous  recoveries  have  taken 
place,  effected  by  nature  and  the  climate,  after  the 
surgeons,  experienced  as  they  are  in  that  branch  of 
practice,  had  exhausted  their  skill  upon  the  patient. 



THE  long  tract  of  mountainous  country  lying  north 
and  south,  which  comprises  the  mining  districts,  is 
divided  into  the  northern  and  southern  mines — the 
former  having  communication  with  San  Francisco 
through  Sacramento  and  Marysville,  while  the  latter 
are  more  accessible  by  way  of  Stockton,  a  city  situ- 
ated at  the  head  of  navigation  of  the  San  Joaquin, 
which  joins  the  Sacramento  about  fifty  miles  above 
San  Francisco. 

My  wanderings  had  hitherto  been  confined  to  the 
northern  mines,  and  when,  after  a  short  stay  in  San 
Francisco,  business  again  led  me  to  Placerville,  I 
determined  from  that  point  to  travel  down  through 
the  southern  mines,  and  visit  the  various  places  of 
interest  en  route. 

It  was  about  the  end  of  March  when  I  started. 
The  winter  was  quite  over  ;  all  that  remained  of  it 

THE   MINES   IN   SPRING.  285 

was  an  occasional  heavy  shower  of  rain  ;  the  air  was 
mild  and  soft,  and  the  mountains,  covered  with  fresh 
verdure,  were  blooming  brightly  in  the  warm  sun- 
shine with  many-coloured  flowers.  In  every  ravine, 
and  through  each  little  hollow  in  the  high  lands, 
flowed  a  stream  of  water ;  and  wherever  water  was 
to  be  found,  there  also  were  miners  at  work.  From 
the  towns  and  camps,  where  the  supply  of  water  was 
constant,  and  where  the  diggings  could  consequently 
be  worked  at  any  time  of  the  year,  they  had  ex- 
panded themselves  over  the  whole  face  of  the 
country  ;  and  in  travelling  through  the  depths  of  the 
forests,  just  as  the  solitude  seemed  to  be  perfect,  one 
got  a  glimpse  in  the  distance,  through  the  dark  col- 
umns of  the  pine-trees,  of  the  red  shirts  of  two  or 
three  straggling  miners,  taking  advantage  of  the  short 
period  of  running  water  to  reap  a  golden  harvest  in 
some  spot  of  fancied  richness.  This  was  the  season 
of  all  others  to  see  to  the  best  advantage  the  grandeur 
and  beauty  of  the  scenery,  and  at  the  same  time  to 
realise  how  widely  diffused  and  inexhaustible  is  the 
wealth  of  the  country.  Inexhaustible  is,  of  course, 
only  a  comparative  term ;  for  the  amount  of  gold 
still  remaining  in  California  is  a  definite  quantity  be- 
coming less  and  less  every  day,  and  already  vastly 
reduced  from  what  it  was  when  the  mines  lay  intact 
seven  years  ago  ;  but  still  the  date  at  which  the  yield 
of  the  California  mines  is  to  cease,  or  even  to  begin 
to  fall  off,  seems  to  be  as  far  distant  as  ever.  In  fact, 
the  continued  labour  of  constantly  increasing  num- 

286  THE  WEALTH    OF   THE   MINES. 

bers  of  miners,  instead  of  exhausting  the  resources  of 
the  mines,  as  some  persons  at  first  supposed  would 
be  the  case,  has,  on  the  contrary,  only  served  to  esta- 
blish confidence  in  the  permanence  of  their  wealth. 

It  is  true  that  such  diggings  are  now  rarely  to  be 
met  with  as  were  found  in  the  early  days,  when  the 
pioneers,  pitching,  as  if  by  instinct,  on  those  spots 
where  the  superabundant  richness  of  the  country  had 
broken  out,  dug  up  gold  as  they  would  potatoes  ;  nor 
is  the  average  yield  to  the  individual  miner  so  great 
as  it  was  in  those  times.  Subsequent  research,  how- 
ever, has  shown  that  the  gold  is  not  confined  to  a 
few  localities,  but  that  the  whole  country  is  saturated 
with  it.  The  mineral  produce  of  the  mines  increases 
with  the  population,  though  not  in  the  same  ratio  ; 
for  only  a  certain  proportion  of  the  immigrants  be- 
take themselves  to  mining,  the  rest  finding  equally 
profitable  occupation  in  the  various  branches  of 
mechanical  and  agricultural  industry  which  have  of 
late  years  sprung  up  ;  while  the  miner,  though  per- 
haps not  actually  taking  out  as  much  gold  as  in 
1849,  is  nevertheless  equally  prosperous,  for  he  lives 
amid  the  comforts  of  civilised  life,  which  he  obtains 
at  a  reasonable  rate,  instead  of  being  reduced  to  a 
half-savage  state,  and  having  to  pay  fabulous  prices 
for  every  article  of  consumption. 

The  first  large  camp  on  my  way  south  from  Hang- 
town  was  Moquelumne  Hill,  about  sixty  miles  dis- 
tant, and  as  there  were  no  very  interesting  localities 
in  the  intermediate  country,  I  travelled  direct  to  that 


place.  After  passing  through  a  number  of  small 
camps,  I  arrived  about  noon  of  the  second  day  at 
Jacksonville,  a  small  village  called  after  General 
Jackson,  of  immortal  memory.  I  had  noticed  a  great 
many  French  miners  at  work  as  I  came  along,  and  so 
I  was  prepared  to  find  it  rather  a  French-looking 
place.  Half  the  signs  over  the  stores  and  hotels  were 
French,  and  numbers  of  Frenchmen  were  sitting  at 
small  tables  in  front  of  the  houses  playing  at  cards. 

As  I  walked  up  the  town  I  nearly  stumbled  over  a 
young  grizzly  bear,  about  the  size  of  two  Newfound- 
land dogs  rolled  into  one,  which  was  chained  to  a 
stump  in  the  middle  of  the  street.  I  very  quickly 
got  out  of  his  way  ;  but  I  found  afterwards  that 
he  was  more  playful  than  vicious.  He  was  the  pet 
of  the  village,  and  was  delighted  when  he  could  get 
any  one  to  play  with,  though  he  was  rather  beyond 
the  age  at  which  such  a  playmate  is  at  all  desirable. 
I  don't  think  he  was  likely  to  enjoy  long  even  the 
small  amount  of  freedom  he  possessed ;  he  would 
probably  be  caged  up  and  shipped  to  New  York ; 
for  a  live  grizzly  is  there  a  valuable  piece  of  pro- 
perty, worth  a  good  deal  more  than  the  same  weight 
of  bear's  meat  in  California,  even  at  two  dollars 

From  this  place  there  was  a  steep  descent  of  two 
or  three  miles  to  the  Moquelumne  Eiver,  which  I 
crossed  by  means  of  a  good  bridge,  and,  after  ascend- 
ing again  to  the  upper  world  by  a  long  winding 
road,  I  reached  the  town  of  Moquelumne  Hill,  which 


is  situated  on  the  very  brink  of  the  high  land  over- 
hanging the  river. 

It  lies  in  a  sort  of  semicircular  amphitheatre  of 
about  a  mile  in  diameter,  surrounded  by  a  chain  of 
small  eminences,  in  which  gold  was  found  in  great 
quantities.  The  diggings  were  chiefly  deep  diggings, 
worked  by  means  of  "  coyote  holes/'  a  hundred  feet 
deep,  and  all  the  ground  round  the  town  was  accord- 
ingly covered  with  windlasses  and  heaps  of  dirt. 
The  heights  at  each  end  of  the  amphitheatre  had 
proved  the  richest  spots,  and  were  supposed  to  have 
been  volcanoes.  But  many  hills  in  the  mines  got 
the  credit  of  having  been  volcanoes,  for  no  other 
reason  than  that  they  were  full  of  gold ;  and  this  was 
probably  the  only  claim  to  such  a  distinction  which 
could  be  made  in  this  case. 

The  population  was  a  mixture  of  equal  proportions 
of  French,  Mexicans,  and  Americans,  with  a  few  stray 
Chinamen,  Chilians,  and  suchlike. 

The  town  itself,  with  the  exception  of  two  or  three 
wooden  stores  and  gambling  saloons,  was  all  of  can- 
vass. Many  of  the  houses  were  merely  skeletons 
clothed  in  dirty  rags  of  canvass,  and  it  was  not  diffi- 
cult to  tell  what  part  of  the  population  they  belonged 
to,  even  had  there  not  been  crowds  of  lazy  Mexicans 
vegetating  about  the  doors. 

The  Indians,  who  were  pretty  numerous  about 
here,  seemed  to  be  a  slightly  superior  race  to  those 
farther  north.  I  judged  so  from  the  fact  that  they 
apparently  had  more  money,  and  consequently  must 

FATE   OF   THE   INDIANS.  289 

have  had  more  energy  to  dig  for  it.  They  were  also 
great  gamblers,  and  particularly  fond  of  monte,  at 
which  the  Mexicans  fleeced  them  of  all  their  cash, 
excepting  what  they  spent  in  making  themselves 
ridiculous  with  stray  articles  of  clothing. 

But  perhaps  their  appreciation  of  monte,  and  their 
desire  to  copy  the  costume  of  white  men,  are  signs  of 
a  greater  capability  of  civilisation  than  they  gene- 
rally get  credit  for.  Still  their  presence  is  not  com- 
patible with  that  of  a  civilised  community,  and,  as 
the  country  becomes  more  thickly  settled,  there  will 
be  no  longer  room  for  them.  Their  country  can  be 
made  subservient  to  man,  but  as  they  themselves 
cannot  be  turned  to  account,  they  must  move  off,  and 
make  way  for  their  betters. 

This  may  not  be  very  good  morality,  but  it  is  the 
way  of  the  world,  and  the  aborigines  of  California  are 
not  likely  to  share  a  better  fate  than  those  of  many 
another  country.  And  though  the  people  who  drive 
them  out  may  make  the  process  as  gradual  as  pos- 
sible by  the  system  of  Indian  grants  and  reservations, 
yet,  as  with  wild  cattle,  so  it  is  with  Indians,  so  many 
head,  and  no  more,  can  live  on  a  given  quantity  of 
land,  and,  if  crowded  into  too  small  a  compass,  the 
result  is  certain  though  gradual  extirpation,  for  by 
their  numbers  they  prevent  the  reproduction  of  their 
means  of  subsistence. 

At  the  time  of  my  arrival  in  Moquelumne  Hill,  the 
town  was  posted  all  over  with  placards,  which  I  had 
also  observed  stuck  upon  trees  and  rocks  by  the 


road-side  as  I  travelled  over  the  mountains.     They 
were  to  this  effect : — 

"  WAR  !     WAR  !  I     WAR  ! !  1 

The  celebrated  Bull -killing  Bear, 

will  fight  a  Bull  on  Sunday  the  15th  inst.,  at  2  P.  M., 

at  Moquelumne  Hill. 

"  The  Bear  will  be  chained  with  a  twenty-foot  chain  in  the 
middle  of  the  arena.  The  Bull  will  be  perfectly  wild,  young, 
of  the  Spanish  breed,  and  the  best  that  can  be  found  in  the 
country.  The  Bull's  horns  will  be  of  their  natural  length,  and 
4  not  sawed  off  to  prevent  accidents.'  The  Bull  will  be  quite  free 
in  the  arena,  and  not  hampered  in  any  way  whatever." 

The  proprietors  then  went  on  to  state  that  they 
had  nothing  to  do  with  the  humbugging  which 
characterised  the  last  fight,  and  begged  confidently 
to  assure  the  public  that  this  would  be  the  most 
splendid  exhibition  ever  seen  in  the  country. 

I  had  often  heard  of  these  bull-and-bear  fights  as 
popular  amusements  in  some  parts  of  the  State,  but 
had  never  yet  had  an  opportunity  of  witnessing  them  ; 
so,  on  Sunday  the  15th,  I  found  myself  walking  up 
towards  the  arena,  among  a  crowd  of  miners  and 
others  of  all  nations,  to  witness  the  performances  of 
the  redoubted  General  Scott. 

The  amphitheatre  was  a  roughly  but  strongly  built 
wooden  structure,  uncovered  of  course  ;  and  the  outer 
enclosure,  which  was  of  boards  about  ten  feet  high, 
was  a  hundred  feet  in  diameter.  The  arena  in  the 
centre  was  forty  feet  in  diameter,  and  enclosed  by  a 
very  strong  five-barred  fence.  From  the  top  of  this 

THE   ARENA.  291 

rose  tiers  of  seats,  occupying  the  space  between  the 
arena  and  the  outside  enclosure. 

As  the  appointed  hour  drew  near,  the  company 
continued  to  arrive  till  the  whole  place  was  crowded  ; 
while,  to  beguile  the  time  till  the  business  of  the  day 
should  commence,  two  fiddlers — a  white  man  and  a 
gentleman  of  colour — performed  a  variety  of  appro- 
priate airs. 

The  scene  was  gay  and  brilliant,  and  was  one 
which  would  have  made  a  crowded  opera-house 
appear  gloomy  and  dull  in  comparison.  The  shelving 
bank  of  human  beings  which  encircled  the  place  was 
like  a  mass  of  bright  flowers.  The  most  conspicuous 
objects  were  the  shirts  of  the  miners,  red,  white,  and 
blue  being  the  fashionable  colours,  among  which 
appeared  bronzed  and  bearded  faces  under  hats  of 
every  hue  ;  revolvers  and  silver-handled  bowie-knives 
glanced  in  the  bright  sunshine,  and  among  the  crowd 
were  numbers  of  gay  Mexican  blankets,  and  red  and 
blue  French  bonnets,  while  here  and  there  the  fair 
sex  was  represented  by  a  few  Mexican  women  in 
snowy-white  dresses,  puffing  their  cigaritas  in  delight- 
ful anticipation  of  the  exciting  scene  which  was  to 
be  enacted.  Over  the  heads  of  the  highest  circle  of 
spectators  was  seen  mountain  beyond  mountain  fading 
away  in  the  distance,  and  on  the  green  turf  of  the 
arena  lay  the  great  centre  of  attraction,  the  hero  of 
the  day,  General  Scott. 

He  was,  however,  not  yet  exposed  to  public  gaze, 
but  was  confined  in  his  cage,  a  heavy  wooden  box 

292  THE   BEAR. 

lined  with  iron,  with  open  iron-bars  on  one  side, 
which  for  the  present  was  boarded  over.  From  the 
centre  of  the  arena  a  chain  led  into  the  cage,  and  at 
the  end  of  it  no  doubt  the  bear  was  to  be  found. 
Beneath  the  scaffolding  on  which  sat  the  spectators 
were  two  pens,  each  containing  a  very  handsome 
bull,  showing  evident  signs  of  indignation  at  his 
confinement.  Here  also  was  the  bar,  without  which 
no  place  of  public  amusement  would  be  complete. 

There  was  much  excitement  among  the  crowd  as 
to  the  result  of  the  battle,  as  the  bear  had  already 
killed  several  bulls ;  but  an  idea  prevailed  that  in 
former  fights  the  bulls  had  not  had  fair  play,  being 
tied  by  a  rope  to  the  bear,  and  having  the  tips  of 
their  horns  sawed  off.  But  on  this  occasion  the  bull 
was  to  have  every  advantage  which  could  be  given 
him  ;  and  he  certainly  had  the  good  wishes  of  the 
spectators,  though  the  bear  was  considered  such  a 
successful  and  experienced  bull-fighter  that  the  bet- 
ting was  all  in  his  favour.  Some  of  my  neighbours 
gave  it  as  their  opinion,  that  there  was  "  nary  bull 
in  Calaforny  as  could  whip  that  bar." 

At  last,  after  a  final  tattoo  had  been  beaten  on  a 
gong  to  make  the  stragglers  hurry  up  the  hill,  pre- 
parations were  made  for  beginning  the  fight. 

The  bear  made  his  appearance  before  the  public 
in  a  very  bearish  manner.  His  cage  ran  upon  very 
small  wheels,  and  some  bolts  having  been  slipped 
connected  with  the  face  of  it,  it  was  dragged  out  of 
the  ring,  when,  as  his  chain  only  allowed  him  to  come 

THE   BULL.  293 

within  a  foot  or  two  of  the  fence,  the  General  was 
rolled  out  upon  the  ground  all  of  a  heap,  and  very 
much  against  his  inclination  apparently,  for  he  made 
violent  efforts  to  regain  his  cage  as  it  disappeared. 
When  he  saw  that  was  hopeless,  he  floundered  half- 
way round  the  ring  at  the  length  of  his  chain,  and 
commenced  to  tear  up  the  earth  with  his  fore-paws. 
He  was  a  grizzly  bear  of  pretty  large  size,  weighing 
about  twelve  hundred  pounds. 

The  next  thing  to  be  done  was  to  introduce  the 
bull.  The  bars  between  his  pen  and  the  arena  were 
removed,  while  two  or  three  men  stood  ready  to  put 
them  up  again  as  soon  as  he  should  come  out.  But 
he  did  not  seem  to  like  the  prospect,  and  was  not 
disposed  to  move  till  pretty  sharply  poked  up  from 
behind,  when,  making  a  furious  dash  at  the  red  flag 
which  was  being  waved  in  front  of  the  gate,  he  found 
himself  in  the  ring  face  to  face  with  General  Scott. 

The  General,  in  the  mean  time,  had  scraped  a  hole 
for  himself  two  or  three  inches  deep,  in  which  he  was 
lying  down.  This,  I  was  told  by  those  who  had  seen 
his  performances  before,  was  his  usual  fighting  attitude. 

The  bull  was  a  very  beautiful  animal,  of  a  dark 
purple  colour  marked  with  white.  His  horns  were 
regular  and  sharp,  and  his  coat  was  as  smooth  and 
glossy  as  a  racer's.  He  stood  for  a  moment  taking 
a  survey  of  the  bear,  the  ring,  and  the  crowds  of 
people ;  but  not  liking  the  appearance  of  things  in 
general,  he  wheeled  round,  and  made  a  splendid  dash 
at  the  bars,  which  had  already  been  put  up  between 


him  and  his  pen,  smashing  through  them  with  as 
much  ease  as  the  man  in  the  circus  leaps  through  a 
hoop  of  brown  paper.  This  was  only  losing  time, 
however,  for  he  had  to  go  in  and  fight,  and  might 
as  well  have  done  so  at  once.  He  was  accordingly 
again  persuaded  to  enter  the  arena,  and  a  perfect 
barricade  of  bars  and  boards  was  erected  to  prevent 
his  making  another  retreat.  But  this  time  he  had 
made  up  his  mind  to  fight ;  and  after  looking 
steadily  at  the  bear  for  a  few  minutes  as  if  taking 
aim  at  him,  he  put  down  his  head  and  charged  furi- 
ously at  him  across  the  arena.  The  bear  received 
him  crouching  down  as  low  as  he  could,  and  though 
one  could  hear  the  bump  of  the  bull's  head  and  horns 
upon  his  ribs,  he  was  quick  enough  to  seize  the  bull 
by  the  nose  before  he  could  retreat.  This  spirited 
commencement  of  the  battle  on  the  part  of  the  bull 
was  hailed  with  uproarious  applause ;  and  by  having 
shown  such  pluck,  he  had  gained  more  than  ever  the 
sympathy  of  the  people. 

In  the  mean  time,  the  bear,  lying  on  his  back,  held 
the  bull's  nose  firmly  between  his  teeth,  and  em- 
braced him  round  the  neck  with  his  fore-paws,  while 
the  bull  made  the  most  of  his  opportunities  in 
stamping  on  the  bear  with  his  hind-feet.  At  last  the 
General  became  exasperated  at  such  treatment,  and 
shook  the  bull  savagely  by  the  nose,  when  a  promis- 
cuous scuffle  ensued,  which  resulted  in  the  bear 
throwing  his  antagonist  to  the  ground  with  his  fore- 

AND   GETS   THE   WORST    OF   IT.  295 

For  this  feat  the  bear  was  cheered  immensely,  and 
it  was  thought  that,  having  the  bull  down,  he  would 
make  short  work  of  him  ;  but  apparently  wild  beasts 
do  not  tear  each  other  to  pieces  quite  so  easily  as  is 
generally  supposed,  for  neither  the  bear's  teeth  nor 
his  long  claws  seemed  to  have  much  effect  on  the 
hide  of  the  bull,  who  soon  regained  his  feet,  and,  dis- 
engaging himself,  retired  to  the  other  side  of  the  ring, 
while  the  bear  again  crouched  down  in  his  hole. 

Neither  of  them  seemed  to  be  very  much  the  worse 
of  the  encounter,  excepting  that  the  bull's  nose  had 
rather  a  ragged  and  bloody  appearance ;  but  after 
standing  a  few  minutes,  steadily  eyeing  the  General, 
he  made  another  rush  at  him.  Again  poor  bruin's 
ribs  resounded,  but  again  he  took  the  bull's  nose  into 
chancery,  having  seized  him  just  as  before.  The 
bull,  however,  quickly  disengaged  himself,  and  was 
making  off,  when  the  General,  not  wishing  to  part 
with  him  so  soon,  seized  his  hind-foot  between  his 
teeth,  and,  holding  on  by  his  paws  as  well,  was 
thus  dragged  round  the  ring  before  he  quitted  his 

This  round  terminated  with  shouts  of  delight  from 
the  excited  spectators,  and  it  was  thought  that  the 
bull  might  have  a  chance  after  all.  He  had  been 
severely  punished,  however  ;  his  nose  and  lips  were  a 
mass  of  bloody  shreds,  and  he  lay  down  to  recover 
himself.  But  he  was  not  allowed  to  rest  very  long, 
being  poked  up  with  sticks  by  men  outside,  which 
made  him  very  savage.  He  made  several  feints  to 


charge  them  through  the  bars,  which,  fortunately,  he 
did  not  attempt,  for  he  could  certainly  have  gone 
through  them  as  easily  as  he  had  before  broken  into 
his  pen.  He  showed  no  inclination  to  renew  the  com- 
bat ;  but  by  goading  him,  and  waving  a  red  flag  over 
the  bear,  he  was  eventually  worked  up  to  such  a  state 
of  fury  as  to  make  another  charge.  The  result  was 
exactly  the  same  as  before,  only  that  when  the  bull 
managed  to  get  up  after  being  thrown,  the  bear  still 
had  hold  of  the  skin  of  his  back. 

In  the  next  round  both  parties  fought  more 
savagely  than  ever,  and  the  advantage  was  rather  in 
favour  of  the  bear  :  the  bull  seemed  to  be  quite  used 
up,  and  to  have  lost  all  chance  of  victory. 

The  conductor  of  the  performances  then  mounted 
the  barrier,  and,  addressing  the  crowd,  asked  them  if 
the  bull  had  not  had  fair  play,  which  was  unani- 
mously allowed.  He  then  stated  that  he  knew  there 
was  not  a  bull  in  California  which  the  General  could 
not  whip,  and  that  for  two  hundred  dollars  he  would 
let  in  the  other  bull,  and  the  three  should  fight  it  out 
till  one  or  all  were  killed. 

This  proposal  was  received  with  loud  cheers,  and 
two  or  three  men  going  round  with  hats  soon 
collected,  in  voluntary  contributions,  the  required 
amount.  The  people  were  intensely  excited  and  de- 
lighted with  the  sport,  and  double  the  sum  would 
have  been  just  as  quickly  raised  to  insure  a  continu- 
ance of  the  scene.  A  man  sitting  next  me,  who  was 
a  connoisseur  in  bear-fights,  and  passionately  fond  of 

USES   UP   A   FRESH   BULL.  297 

the  amusement,  informed  me  that  this  was  "  the  finest 
fight  ever  fit  in  the  country." 

The  second  bull  was  equally  handsome  as  the  first, 
and  in  as  good  condition.  On  entering  the  arena,  and 
looking  around  him,  he  seemed  to  understand  the  state 
of  affairs  at  once.  Glancing  from  the  bear  lying  on 
the  ground  to  the  other  bull  standing  at  the  opposite 
side  of  the  ring,  with  drooping  head  and  bloody  nose, 
he  seemed  to  divine  at  once  that  the  bear  was  their 
common  enemy,  and  rushed  at  him  full  tilt.  The 
bear,  as  usual,  pinned  him  by  the  nose ;  but  this  bull 
did  not  take  such  treatment  so  quietly  as  the  other  : 
struggling  violently,  he  soon  freed  himself,  and,  wheel- 
ing round  as  he  did  so,  he  caught  the  bear  on  the 
hind-quarters  and  knocked  him  over  ;  while  the  other 
bull,  who  had  been  quietly  watching  the  proceedings, 
thought  this  a  good  opportunity  to  pitch  in  also,  and 
rushing  up,  he  gave  the  bear  a  dig  in  the  ribs  on  the 
other  side  before  he  had  time  to  recover  himself. 
The  poor  General  between  the  two  did  not  know  what 
to  do,  but  struck  out  blindly  with  his  fore-paws  with 
such  a  suppliant  pitiable  look  that  I  thought  this  the 
most  disgusting  part  of  the  whole  exhibition. 

After  another  round  or  two  with  the  fresh  bull,  it 
was  evident  that  he  was  no  match  for  the  bear,  and 
it  was  agreed  to  conclude  the  performances.  The 
bulls  were  then  shot  to  put  them  out  of  pain,  and 
the  company  dispersed,  all  apparently  satisfied  that 
it  had  been  a  very  splendid  fight. 

The  reader  can  form  his  own  opinion  as  to  the 

298  THE   FATE   OF   THE   GENERAL. 

character  of  an  exhibition  such  as  I  have  endeavoured 
to  describe.  For  my  own  part,  I  did  not  at  first  find 
the  actual  spectacle  so  disgusting  as  I  had  expected  I 
should  ;  for  as  long  as  the  animals  fought  with  spirit, 
they  might  have  been  supposed  to  be  following  their 
natural  instincts  ;  but  when  the  bull  had  to  be  urged 
and  goaded  on  to  return  to  the  charge,  the  cruelty  of 
the  whole  proceeding  was  too  apparent ;  and  when 
the  two  bulls  at  once  were  let  in  upon  the  bear,  all 
idea  of  sport  or  fair  play  was  at  an  end,  and  it  became 
a  scene  which  one  would  rather  have  prevented  than 

In  these  bull-and-bear  fights  the  bull  sometimes 
kills  the  bear  at  the  first  charge,  by  plunging  his  horns 
between  the  ribs,  and  striking  a  vital  part.  Such  was 
the  fate  of  General  Scott  in  the  next  battle  he  fought, 
a  few  weeks  afterwards ;  but  it  is  seldom  that  the 
bear  kills  the  bull  outright,  his  misery  being  in  most 
cases  ended  by  a  rifle-ball  when  he  can  no  longer 
maintain  the  combat. 

I  took  a  sketch  of  the  General  the  day  after  the 
battle.  He  was  in  the  middle  of  the  now  deserted 
arena,  and  was  in  a  particularly  savage  humour. 
He  seemed  to  consider  my  intrusion  on  his  solitude 
as  a  personal  insult,  for  he  growled  most  savagely, 
and  stormed  about  in  his  cage,  even  pulling  at  the 
iron  bars  in  his  efforts  to  get  out.  I  could  not  help 
thinking  what  a  pretty  mess  he  would  have  made  of 
me  if  he  had  succeeded  in  doing  so ;  but  I  regarded 
with  peculiar  satisfaction  the  massive  architecture  of 


his  abode  ;  and,  taking  a  seat  a  few  feet  from  him,  I 
lighted  my  pipe,  and  waited  till  he  should  quiet  down 
into  an  attitude,  which  he  soon  did,  though  very 
sulkily,  when  he  saw  that  he  could  not  help  himself. 

He  did  not  seem  to  be  much  the  worse  of  the 
battle,  having  but  one  wound,  and  that  appeared  to 
be  only  skin  deep. 

Such  a  bear  as  this,  alive,  was  worth  about  fifteen 
hundred  dollars.  The  method  of  capturing  them  is 
a  service  of  considerable  danger,  and  requires  a  great 
deal  of  labour  and  constant  watching. 

A  spot  is  chosen  in  some  remote  part  of  the  moun- 
tains, where  it  has  been  ascertained  that  bears  are 
pretty  numerous.  Here  a  species  of  cage  is  built, 
about  twelve  feet  square  and  six  feet  high,  con- 
structed of  pine  logs,  and  fastened  after  the  manner 
of  a  log-cabin.  This  is  suspended  between  two  trees, 
six  or  seven  feet  from  the  ground,  and  inside  is  hung 
a  huge  piece  of  beef,  communicating  by  a  string  with 
a  trigger,  so  contrived  that  the  slightest  tug  at  the 
beef  draws  the  trigger,  and  down  comes  the  trap, 
which  has  more  the  appearance  of  a  log-cabin  sus- 
pended in  the  air  than  anything  else.  A  regular 
locomotive  cage,  lined  with  iron,  has  also  to  be  taken 
to  the  spot,  to  be  kept  in  readiness  for  bruin's  accom- 
modation, for  the  pine-log  trap  would  not  hold  him 
long ;  he  would  soon  eat  and  tear  his  way  out  of  it. 
The  enterprising  bear -catchers  have  therefore  to 
remain  in  the  neighbourhood,  and  keep  a  sharp  look- 

300  CAGING   THE   BEAR. 

Kemoving  the  bear  from  the  trap  to  the  cage  is  the 
most  dangerous  part  of  the  business.  One  side  of 
the  trap  is  so  contrived  as  to  admit  of  being  opened 
or  removed,  and  the  cage  is  drawn  up  alongside,  with 
the  door  also  open,  when  the  bear  has  to  be  per- 
suaded to  step  into  his  new  abode,  in  which  he  travels 
down  to  the  more  populous  parts  of  the  country,  to 
fight  bulls  for  the  amusement  of  the  public. 



THE  want  of  water  was  the  great  obstacle  in  the 
way  of  mining  at  Moquelumne  Hill.  As  it  stood  so 
much  higher  than  the  surrounding  country,  there 
were  no  streams  which  could  be  introduced,  and  the 
only  means  of  getting  a  constant  supply  was  to 
bring  the  water  from  the  Moquelumne  Kiver,  which 
flowed  past,  three  or  four  thousand  feet  below  the 
diggings.  In  order  to  get  the  requisite  elevation  to 
raise  the  waters  so  far  above  their  natural  channel,  it 
was  found  necessary  to  commence  the  canal  some 
fifty  or  sixty  miles  up  the  river.  The  idea  had  been 
projected,  but  the  execution  of  such  a  piece  of  work 
required  more  capital  than  could  be  raised  at  the 
moment  ;  but  the  diggings  at  Moquelumne  Hill 
were  known  to  be  so  rich,  as  was  also  the  tract 


of  country  through  which  the  canal  would  pass,  that 
the  speculation  was  considered  sure  to  be  successful ; 
and  a  company  was  not  long  after  formed  for  the 
purpose  of  carrying  out  the  undertaking,  which 
amply  repaid  those  embarked  in  it,  and  opened  up 
a  vast  extent  of  new  field  for  mining  operations,  by 
supplying  water  in  places  which  otherwise  could 
only  have  been  worked  for  two  or  three  months  of 
the  year. 

This  was  only  one  of  many  such  undertakings  in 
California,  some  of  which  were  even  on  a  larger  scale. 
The  engineering  difficulties  were  very  great,  from 
the  rocky  and  mountainous  nature  of  the  country 
through  which  the  canals  were  brought.  Hollows 
and  valleys  were  spanned  at  a  great  height  by  aque- 
ducts, supported  on  graceful  scaffoldings  of  pine- 
logs,  and  precipitous  mountains  were  girded  by 
wooden  flumes  projecting  from  their  rocky  sides. 
Throughout  the  course  of  a  canal,  wherever  water 
was  wanted  by  miners,  it  was  supplied  to  them  at 
so  much  an  inch,  a  sufficient  quantity  for  a  party 
of  five  or  six  men  costing  about  seven  dollars  a- 

I  remained  a  few  days  at  Moquelumne  Hill  in 
a  holey  old  canvass  hotel,  which  freely  admitted 
both  wind  and  water  ;  but  in  this  respect  it  was  not 
much  worse  than  its  neighbours.  A  French  physi- 
cian resided  on  the  opposite  side  of  the  street  in  a 
tent  not  much  larger  than  a  sentry-box,  on  the  front 
of  which  appeared  the  following  promiscuous  an- 


nouncement,  in  letters  as  large  as  tlie  space  admitted 






From  Moquelumne  I  went  to  Volcano  Diggings,  a 
distance  of  eighteen  miles,  but  which  I  lengthened  to 
nearly  thirty  by  losing  my  way  in  crossing  an  un- 
frequented part  of  the  country  wher,e  the  trails  were 
very  indistinct. 

The  principal  diggings  at  Volcano  are  in  the 
banks  of  a  gulch,  called  Soldiers'  Gulch,  from  its 
having  been  first  worked  by  United  States'  soldiers, 
and  were  of  a  peculiar  nature,  differing  from  any 
other  diggings  I  had  seen,  inasmuch  as,  though  they 
had  been  worked  to  a  depth  of  forty  or  fifty  feet 
from  the  surface,  they  had  been  equally  rich  from 
top  to  bottom,  and  as  yet  no  bed  -  rock  had  been 
reached.  It  was  seldom  such  a  depth  of  pay-dirt  was 
found.  The  gold  was  usually  only  found  within  a 
few  feet  of  the  bottom,  but  in  this  case  the  stiff  clay 
soil  may  have  retained  the  gold,  and  prevented  its 
settling  down  so  readily  as  through  sand  or  gravel. 
The  clay  was  so  stiff  that  it  was  with  difficulty  it 
could  be  washed,  and  lately  the  miners  had  taken 


to  boiling  it  in  large  boilers,  which  was  found  to 
dissolve  it  very  quickly. 

To  mineralogists  I  should  think  that  this  is  the 
most  interesting  spot  in  the  mines,  from  the  great 
variety  of  curious  stones  found  in  large  quantities 
in  the  diggings.  One  kind  is  found,  about  the  size 
of  a  man's  head,  which  when  broken  appears  veined 
with  successive  brightly-coloured  layers  round  a  beau- 
tifully-crystallised cavity  in  the  centre,  the  whole 
being  enveloped  in  a  rough  outside  crust  an  inch  in 
thickness.  The  colours  are  more  various  and  the 
veins  closer  together  than  those  of  a  Scotch  pebble, 
and  the  stone  itself  is  more  flinty  and  opaque. 
Quantities  of  lava  were  also  found  here,  and  masses 
of  limestone  rock  appeared  above  the  surface  of  the 

This  place  lay  north  of  Moquelumne  Hill,  and 
might  be  called  the  most  southern  point  of  the 
northern  mines. 

Between  the  scenery  of  the  northern  mines  and 
that  of  the  south  there  is  a  very  marked  difference, 
both  in  the  exterior  formation  of  the  country, 
and  in  the  kind  of  trees  with  which  it  is  wooded. 
In  both  the  surface  of  the  country  is  smooth - 
that  is  to  say,  there  is  an  absence  of  ruggedness  of 
detail — the  mountains  appear  to  have  been  smoothed 
down  by  the  action  of  water ;  but,  both  north  and 
south,  the  country,  as  a  whole,  is  rough  in  the  ex- 
treme, the  mountain-sides,  as  well  as  the  table-lands, 
being  covered  with  swellings,  and  deeply  indented  by 


ravines.  An  acre  of  level  land  is  hardly  to  be  found. 
The  difference,  however,  exists  in  this,  that  in  the 
north  the  mountains  themselves,  and  every  little 
swelling  upon  them,  are  of  a  conical  form,  while  in 
the  south  they  are  all  more  circular.  The  mountains 
spread  themselves  out  in  hemispherical  projections 
one  beyond  another ;  and  in  many  parts  of  the 
country  are  found  groups  of  eminences  of  the  same 
form,  and  as  symmetrical  as  if  they  had  been  shaped 
by  artificial  means. 

There  is  just  as  much  symmetry  in  the  conical 
forms  of  the  northern  mines,  but  they  appear  more 
natural,  and  the  pyramidal  tops  of  the  pine-trees  are 
quite  in  keeping  with  the  outlines  of  the  country 
which  they  cover ;  and  it  is  remarkable  that  where 
the  conical  formation  ceases,  there  also  the  pine 
ceases  to  be  the  principal  tree  of  the  country.  There 
are  pines,  and  plenty  of  them,  in  the  southern  mines, 
but  the  country  is  chiefly  wooded  with  various  kinds 
of  oaks,  and  other  trees  of  still  more  rounded  shape, 
with  only  here  and  there  a  solitary  pine  towering 
above  them  to  break  the  monotony  of  the  curvilinear 

As  might  be  expected  from  this  circular  formation, 
the  rivers  in  the  south  do  not  follow  such  a  sharp  zig- 
zag course  as  in  the  north;  they  take  wider  sweeps :  the 
mountains  are  not  so  steep,  and  the  country  generally 
is  not  so  rough.  In  fact,  there  is  scarcely  any  camp 
in  the  southern  mines  which  is  not  accessible  by 

wheeled  vehicles. 



Besides  this  great  change  in  the  appearance  of  the 
country,  one  could  not  fail  to  observe  also,  in  travel- 
ling south,  the  equally  marked  difference  in  the  in- 
habitants. In  the  north,  one  saw  occasionally  some 
straggling  Frenchmen  and  other  European  foreigners, 
here  and  there  a  party  of  Chinamen,  and  a  few  Mexi- 
cans engaged  in  driving  mules,  but  the  total  num- 
ber of  foreigners  was  very  small  :  the  population  was 
almost  entirely  composed  of  Americans,  and  of  these 
the  Missourians  and  other  western  men  formed  a  large 

The  southern  mines,  however,  were  full  of  all  sorts 
of  people.  There  were  many  villages  peopled  nearly 
altogether  by  Mexicans,  others  by  Frenchmen  ;  in 
some  places  there  were  parties  of  two  or  three 
hundred  Chilians  forming  a  community  of  their 
own.  The  Chinese  camps  were  very  numerous  ;  and 
besides  all  such  distinct  colonies  of  foreigners,  every 
town  of  the  southern  mines  contained  a  very  large 
foreign  population.  The  Americans,  however,  were 
of  course  greatly  the  majority,  but  even  among  them 
one  remarked  the  comparatively  small  number  of 
Missourians  and  such  men,  who  are  so  conspicuous 
in  the  north. 

There  was  still  another  difference  in  a  very  impor- 
tant feature — in  fact,  the  most  important  of  all — the 
gold.  The  gold  of  the  northern  mines  is  generally 
flaky,  in  exceedingly  small  thin  scales  ;  that  of  the 
south  is  coarse  gold,  round  and  "  chunky."  The 
rivers  of  the  north  afford  very  rich  diggings,  while 


in  the  south  they  are  comparatively  poor,  and  the 
richest  deposits  are  found  in  the  flats  and  other 
surface-diggings  on  the  highlands. 

In  the  north  there  were  no  such  canvass  towns  as 
Moquelumne  Hill.  Log -cabins  and  frame-houses 
were  the  rule,  and  canvass  the  exception  ;  while  in  the 
southern  mines  the  reverse  was  the  case,  excepting 
in  some  of  the  larger  towns. 

It  is  singular  that  the  State  should  be  thus  divided 
by  nature  into  two  sections  of  country  so  unlike  in 
many  important  points ;  and  that  the  people  inha- 
biting them  should  help  to  heighten  the  contrast  is 
equally  curious,  though  it  may  possibly  be  accounted 
for  by  supposing  that  Frenchmen,  Mexicans,  and 
other  foreigners,  preferred  the  less  wild-looking  coun- 
try and  more  temperate  winters  of  the  southern 
mines,  while  the  absence  of  the  Western  backwoods- 
men in  the  south  was  owing  to  the  fact  that  they 
came  to  the  country  across  the  plains  by  a  route 
which  entered  the  State  near  Placerville.  Their  natu- 
ral instinct  would  have  led  them  to  continue  on  a 
westward  course,  but  this  would  have  brought  them 
down  on  the  plains  of  the  Sacramento  Valley,  where 
there  is  no  gold ;  so,  thinking  that  sunset  was  more 
north  than  south,  and  knowing  a]  so  there  was  more 
western  land  in  that  direction,  they  spread  all  over 
the  northern  part  of  the  State,  till  they  connected 
themselves  with  the  settlements  in  Oregon. 

In  the  neighbourhood  of  Volcano  there  is  a  curious 
cave,  which  I  went  to  visit  with  two  or  three  miners. 

308  VISIT   TO    A    CAVE. 

The  entrance  to  it  is  among  some  large  rocks  on  the 
bank  of  the  creek,  and  is  a  hole  in  the  ground  just 
large  enough  to  admit  of  a  man's  dropping  himself  into 
it  lengthways.  The  descent  is  perpendicular  between 
masses  of  rock  for  about  twenty  feet,  and  is  accom- 
plished by  means  of  a  rope  ;  the  passage  then  takes  a 
slanting  direction  for  the  same  distance,  and  lands 
one  in  a  chamber  thirty  or  forty  feet  wide,  the  roof 
and  sides  of  which  are  composed  of  groups  of  im- 
mense stalactites.  The  height  varies  very  much,  some 
of  the  stalactites  reaching  within  four  or  five  feet  of 
the  ground  ;  and  there  are  several  small  openings  in 
the  walls,  just  large  enough  to  creep  through,  which 
lead  into  similar  chambers.  We  brought  a  number 
of  pieces  of  candle  with  us,  with  which  we  lighted  up 
the  whole  place.  The  effect  was  very  fine ;  the  stalac- 
tites, being  tinged  with  pale  blue,  pink,  and  green, 
were  grouped  in  all  manner  of  grotesque  forms,  in 
one  corner  giving  an  exact  representation  of  a  small 
petrified  waterfall. 

Coming  down  into  the  cave  was  easy  enough,  the 
force  of  gravity  being  the  only  motive  power,  but  to 
get  out  again  we  found  rather  a  difficult  operation. 
The  sides  of  the  passage  were  smooth,  offering  no 
resting-place  for  the  foot ;  and  the  only  means  of  pro- 
gression was  to  haul  oneself  up  by  the  rope  hand  over 
hand — rather  hard  work  in  the  inclined  part  of  the 
passage,  which  was  so  confined  that  one  could  hardly 
use  one's  arms. 

At  the  hotel  I  stayed  at  here  I  found  very  agree- 
able company ;  most  of  the  party  were  Texans,  and 


were  doctors  and  lawyers  by  profession,  though 
miners  by  practice.  For  the  first  time  since  I  had 
been  in  the  mines  I  here  saw  whist  played,  the  more 
favourite  games  being  poker,  eucre,  and  all-fours,  or 
"  seven  up,"  as  it  is  there  called.  There  were  also  some 
enthusiastic  chess-players  among  the  party,  who  had 
manufactured  a  set  of  men  with  their  bowie-knives  ; 
so  what  with  whist  and  chess  every  night,  I  fancied  I 
had  got  into  a  civilised  country. 

The  day  before  I  had  intended  leaving  this  village, 
some  Mexicans  came  into  the  camp  with  a  lot  of 
mules,  which  they  sold  so  cheap  as  to  excite  suspicions 
that  they  had  not  come  by  them  honestly.  In  the 
evening  it  was  discovered  that  they  were  stolen 
animals,  and  several  men  started  in  pursuit  of  the 
Mexicans  ;  but  they  had  already  been  gone  some 
hours,  and  there  was  little  chance  of  their  being 
overtaken.  I  waited  a  day,  in  hopes  of  seeing  them 
brought  back  and  hung  by  process  of  Lynch  law, 
which  would  certainly  have  been  their  fate  had  they 
been  caught ;  but,  fortunately  for  them,  they  suc- 
ceeded in  making  good  their  escape.  The  men 
who  had  gone  in  chase  returned  empty-handed,  so 
I  set  out  again  for  Moquelumne  Hill  on  my  way 

I  was  put  upon  a  shorter  trail  than  the  one  by 
which  I  had  come  from  there;  and  though  it  was 
very  dim  and  little  travelled,  I  managed  to  keep  it : 
and  passing  on  my  way  through  a  small  camp  called 
Clinton,  inhabited  principally  by  Chilians  and  French- 
men, I  struck  the  Moquelumne  River  at  a  point  seve- 


ral  miles  above  the  bridge  where  I  had  crossed  it 

The  river  was  still  much  swollen  with  the  rains 
and  snow  of  winter,  and  the  mode  of  crossing  was 
not  by  any  means  inviting.  Two  very  small  canoes 
lashed  together  served  as  a  ferry-boat,  in  which  the 
passenger  hauled  himself  across  the  river  by  means 
of  a  rope  made  fast  to  a  tree  on  either  bank,  the 
force  of  the  current  keeping  the  canoes  bow  on. 
When  I  arrived  here,  this  contrivance  happened  to 
be  on  the  opposite  side,  where  I  saw  a  solitary  tent 
which  seemed  to  be  inhabited,  but  I  hallooed  in  vain 
for  some  one  to  make  his  appearance  and  act  as  ferry- 
man. There  seemed  to  be  a  trail  from  the  tent  lead- 
ing up  the  river;  so,  following  that  direction  for 
about  half  a  mile,  I  found  a  party  of  miners  at  work 
on  the  other  side — one  of  whom,  in  the  obliging  spirit 
universally  met  with  in  the  mines,  immediately  left 
his  work  and  came  down  to  ferry  me  across. 

On  the  side  I  was  on  was  an  old  race  about  eighteen 
feet  wide,  through  which  the  waters  rushed  rapidly 
past.  A  pile  of  rocks  prevented  the  boat  from  cross- 
ing this,  so  there  was  nothing  for  it  but  to  wade. 
Some  stones  had  been  thrown  in,  forming  a  sort  of 
submarine  stepping-stones,  and  lessening  the  depth 
to  about  three  feet ;  but  they  were  smooth  and  slip- 
pery, and  the  water  was  so  intensely  cold,  and  the 
current  so  strong,  that  I  found  the  long  pole  which 
the  man  told  me  to  take  a  very  necessary  assistance 
in  making  the  passage.  On  reaching  the  canoes,  and 
being  duly  enjoined  to  be  careful  in  getting  in  and 


to  keep  perfectly  still,  we  crossed  the  main  body  of 
the  river;  and  very  ticklish  work  it  was,  for  the  waves 
ran  high,  and  the  utmost  care  was  required  to  avoid 
being  swamped.  We  got  across  safe  enough,  when 
my  friend  put  me  under  additional  obligations  by 
producing  a  bottle  of  brandy  from  his  tent  and  ask- 
ing me  to  "  liquor,"  which  I  did  with  a  great  deal  of 
pleasure,  as  the  water  was  still  gurgling  and  squeak- 
ing in  my  boots,  and  was  so  cold  that  I  felt  as  if  I 
were  half  immersed  in  ice-cream. 

After  climbing  the  steep  mountain-side  and  walking 
a  few  miles  farther,  I  arrived  at  Moquelumne  Hill, 
having,  in  the  course  of  my  day's  journey,  gradually 
passed  from  the  pine-tree  country  into  such  scenery 
as  I  have  already  described  as  characterising  the 
southern  mines. 

I  went  on  the  next  morning  to  San  Andres  by  a 
road  which  winded  through  beautiful  little  valleys, 
still  fresh  and  green,  and  covered  with  large  patches 
of  flowers.  In  one  long  gulch  through  which  I 
passed,  about  two  hundred  Chilians  were  at  work 
washing  the  dirt,  panful  by  panful,  in  their  large 
flat  wooden  dishes.  This  is  a  very  tedious  process, 
and  a  most  unprofitable  expenditure  of  labour;  but 
Mexicans,  Chilians,  and  other  Spanish  Americans,  most 
obstinately  adhered  to  their  old-fashioned  primitive 
style,  although  they  had  the  example  before  them  of 
all  the  rest  of  the  world  continually  making  improve- 
ments in  the  method  of  abstracting  the  gold,  whereby 
time  was  saved  and  labour  rendered  tenfold  more 


I  soon  after  met  a  troop  of  forty  or  fifty  Indians 
galloping  along  the  road,  most  of  them  riding  double 
— the  gentlemen  having  their  squaws  seated  behind 
them.  They  were  dressed  in  the  most  grotesque 
style,  and  the  clothing  seemed  to  be  pretty  generally 
diffused  throughout  the  crowd.  One  man  wore  a 
coat,  another  had  the  remains  of  a  shirt  and  one  boot, 
while  another  was  fully  equipped  in  an  old  hat  and  a 
waistcoat:  but  the  most  conspicuous  and  generally 
worn  articles  of  costume  were  the  coloured  cotton 
handkerchiefs  with  which  they  bandaged  up  their 
heads.  As  they  passed  they  looked  down  upon  me 
with  an  air  of  patronising  condescension,  saluting  me 
with  the  usual  "  wally  wally,"  in  just  such  a  tone 
that  I  could  imagine  them  saying  to  themselves  at 
the  same  time,  "  Poor  devil!  he's  only  a  white  man/' 

They  all  had  their  bows  and  arrows,  and  some 
were  armed  besides  with  old  guns  and  rifles,  but  they 
were  doubtless  only  going  to  pay  a  friendly  visit  to 
some  neighbouring  tribe.  They  were  evidently  an- 
ticipating a  pleasant  time,  for  I  never  before  saw 
Indians  exhibiting  such  boisterous  good-humour. 

A  few  miles  in  from  San  Andres  I  crossed  the 
Calaveras,  which  is  here  a  wide  river,  though  not 
very  deep.  There  was  neither  bridge  nor  ferry,  but 
fortunately  some  Mexicans  had  camped  with  a  train 
of  pack-mules  not  far  from  the  place,  and  from  them 
I  got  an  animal  to  take  me  across. 



IF  one  can  imagine  the  booths  and  penny  theatres  on 
a  race-course  left  for  a  year  or  two  till  they  are  tat- 
tered and  torn,  and  blackened  with  the  weather,  he 
will  have  some  idea  of  the  appearance  of  San  Andres. 
It  was  certainly  the  most  out-at-elbows  and  disor- 
derly-looking camp  I  had  yet  seen  in  the  country. 

The  only  wooden  house  was  the  San  Andres  Hotel, 
and  here  I  took  up  my  quarters.  It  was  kept  by  a 
Missourian  doctor,  and  being  the  only  establish- 
ment of  the  kind  in  the  place,  was  quite  full.  We 
sat  down  forty  or  fifty  at  the  table-d'hote. 

The  Mexicans  formed  by  far  the  most  numerous 
part  of  the  population.  The  streets — for  there  were 
two  streets  at  right  angles  to  each  other — and  the 
gambling-rooms  were  crowded  with  them,  loafing 
about  in  their  blankets  doing  nothing.  There  were 
three  gambling-rooms  in  the  village,  all  within  a  few 
steps  of  each  other,  and  in  each  of  them  was  a  Mexi- 

314  A   QUIET   BED-ROOM. 

can  band  playing  guitars,  harps,  and  flutes.  Of 
course,  one  heard  them  all  three  at  once,  and  as  each 
played  a  different  tune,  the  effect,  as  may  be  supposed, 
was  very  pleasing. 

The  sleeping  apartments  in  the  hotel  itself  were  all 
full,  and  I  had  to  take  a  cot  in  a  tent  on  the  other 
side  of  the  street,  which  was  a  sort  of  colony  of  the 
parent  establishment.  It  was  situated  between  two 
gambling-houses,  one  of  which  was  kept  by  a  French- 
man, who,  whenever  his  musicians  stopped  to  take 
breath  or  brandy,  began  a  series  of  doleful  airs  on  an 
old  barrel-organ.  Till  how  late  in  the  morning  they 
kept  it  up  I  cannot  say,  but  whenever  I  happened  to 
awake  in  the  middle  of  the  night,  my  ears  were  still 
greeted  by  these  sweet  sounds. 

There  was  one  canvass  structure,  differing  but  little 
in  appearance  from  the  rest,  excepting  that  a  small 
wooden  cross  surmounted  the  roof  over  the  door. 
This  was  a  Roman  Catholic  church.  The  only  fitting 
up  of  any  kind  in  the  interior  was  the  altar,  which 
occupied  the  farther  end  from  the  door,  and  was  de- 
corated with  as  much  display  as  circumstances  ad- 
mitted, being  draped  with  the  commonest  kind  of 
coloured  cotton  cloths,  and  covered  with  candlesticks, 
some  brass,  some  of  wood,  but  most  of  them  regular 
California  candlesticks  —  old  claret  and  champagne 
bottles,  arranged  with  due  regard  to  the  numbers  and 
grouping  of  those  bearing  the  different  ornamental 
labels  of  St  Julien,  Medoc,  and  other  favourite  brands. 

I  went  in  on  Sunday  morning  while  service  was 

A   CHURCH.  315 

going  on,  and  found  a  number  of  Mexican  women 
occupying  the  space  nearest  the  altar,  the  rest  of  the 
church  being  filled  with  Mexicans,  who  all  maintained 
an  appearance  of  respectful  devotion.  Two  or  three 
Americans,  who  were  present  out  of  curiosity,  natu- 
rally kept  in  the  background  near  the  door,  except- 
ing two  great  hulking  fellows  who  came  swaggering 
in,  and  jostled  their  way  through  the  crowd  of  Mexi- 
cans, making  it  evident,  from  their  demeanour,  that 
their  only  object  was  to  show  their  supreme  contempt 
for  the  congregation,  and  for  the  whole  proceedings. 
Presently,  however,  the  entire  congregation  went 
down  on  their  knees,  leaving  these  two  awkward  louts 
standing  in  the  middle  of  the  church  as  sheepish-look- 
ing a  pair  of  asses  as  one  could  wish  to  see.  They 
were  hemmed  in  by  the  crowd  of  kneeling  Mexicans — 
there  was  no  retreat  for  them,  and  it  was  extremely 
gratifying  to  see  how  quickly  their  bullying  impu- 
dence was  taken  out  of  them,  and  that  it  brought 
upon  them  a  punishment  which  they  evidently  felt 
so  acutely.  The  officiating  priest,  who  was  a  French- 
man, afterwards  gave  a  short  sermon  in  Spanish, 
which  was  listened  to  attentively,  and  the  people 
then  dispersed  to  spend  the  remainder  of  the  day  in 
the  gambling-rooms. 

The  same  afternoon  a  drove  of  wild  California 
cattle  passed  through  the  camp,  and  as  several  head 
were  being  drafted  out,  I  had  an  opportunity  of 
witnessing  a  specimen  of  the  extraordinary  skill 
of  the  Mexican  in  throwing  the  lasso.  Galloping 


in  among  the  herd,  and  swinging  the  reatu  round 
his  head,  he  singles  out  the  animal  he  wishes  to 
secure,  and,  seldom  missing  his  aim,  he  throws  his 
lasso  so  as  to  encircle  its  horns.  As  soon  as  he  sees 
that  he  has  accomplished  this,  he  immediately  wheels 
round  his  horse,  who  equally  well  understands  his 
part  of  the  business,  and  stands  prepared  to  receive 
the  shock  when  the  bull  shall  have  reached  the  length 
of  the  rope.  In  his  endeavours  to  escape,  the  bull 
then  gallops  round  in  a  circle,  of  which  the  centre  is 
the  horse,  moving  slowly  round,  and  leaning  over  with 
one  of  his  fore-feet  planted  well  out,  so  as  to  enable 
him  to  hold  his  own  in  the  struggle.  An  animal,  if 
he  is  not  very  wild,  may  be  taken  along  in  this  way, 
but  generally  another  man  rides  up  behind  him,  and 
throws  his  lasso  so  as  to  catch  him  by  the  hind-leg. 
This  requires  great  dexterity  and  precision,  as  the 
lasso  has  to  be  thrown  in  such  a  way  that  the  bull 
shall  put  his  foot  into  the  noose  before  it  reaches  the 
ground.  Having  an  animal  secured  by  the  horns  and 
a  hind-foot,  they  have  him  completely  under  com- 
mand ;  one  man  drags  him  along  by  the  horns,  while 
the  other  steers  him  by  the  hind-leg.  If  he  gets 
at  all  obstreperous,  however,  they  throw  him,  and 
drag  him  along  the  ground. 

The  lasso  is  about  twenty  yards  long,  made  of 
strips  of  raw  hide  plaited,  and  the  end  is  made  fast 
to  the  high  horn  which  sticks  up  in  front  of  the 
Mexican  saddle ;  the  strain  is  all  upon  the  saddle, 
and  the  girth,  which  is  consequently  immensely 
strong,  and  lashed  up  very  tight.  The  Mexican 


saddles  are  well  adapted  for  this  sort  of  work,  and 
the  Mexicans  are  unquestionably  splendid  horsemen, 
though  they  ride  too  long  for  English  ideas,  the 
knee  being  hardly  bent  at  all. 

Two  of  the  Vigilance  Committee  rode  over  from 
Moquelumne  Hill  next  morning,  to  get  the  Padre  to 
return  with  them  to  confess  a  Mexican  whom  they 
were  going  to  hang  that  afternoon,  for  having  cut 
into  a  tent  and  stolen  several  hundred  dollars.  I 
unfortunately  did  not  know  anything  about  it  till  it 
was  so  late  that  had  I  gone  there  I  should  not  have 
been  in  time  to  see  the  execution  :  not  that  I  cared 
for  the  mere  spectacle  of  a  poor  wretch  hanging  by 
the  neck,  but  I  was  extremely  desirous  of  witnessing 
the  ceremonies  of  an  execution  by  Judge  Lynch  ;  and 
though  I  was  two  or  three  years  cruising  about  in  the 
mines,  I  never  had  the  luck  to  be  present  on  such  an 
occasion.  I  particularly  regretted  having  missed  this 
one,  as,  from  the  accounts  I  afterwards  heard  of  it,  it 
must  have  been  well  worth  seeing. 

The  Mexican  was  at  first  suspected  of  the  robbery, 
from  his  own  folly  in  going  the  very  next  morning 
to  several  stores,  and  spending  an  unusual  amount  of 
money  on  clothes,  revolvers,  and  so  on.  When  once 
suspected,  he  was  seized  without  ceremony,  and  on 
his  person  was  found  a  quantity  of  gold  specimens 
and  coin,  along  with  the  purse  itself,  all  of  which 
were  identified  by  the  man  who  had  been  robbed. 
With  such  evidence,  of  course,  he  was  very  soon  con- 
victed, and  was  sentenced  to  be  hung.  On  being 


told  of  the  decision  of  the  jury,  and  that  he  was  to 
be  hung  the  next  day,  he  received  the  information  as 
a  piece  of  news  which  no  way  concerned  him,  merely 
shrugging  his  shoulders  and  saying,  "  'sta  bueno," 
in  the  tone  of  utter  indifference  in  which  the  Mexi- 
cans generally  use  the  expression,  requesting  at  the 
same  time  that  the  priest  might  be  sent  for. 

When  he  was  led  out  to  be  hanged,  he  walked 
along  with  as  much  nonchalance  as  any  of  the  crowd, 
and  when  told  at  the  place  of  execution  that  he 
might  say  whatever  he  had  to  say,  he  gracefully 
took  off  his  hat,  and  blowing  a  farewell  whiff  of 
smoke  through  his  nostrils,  he  threw  away  the 
cigarita  he  had  been  smoking,  and,  addressing  the 
crowd,  he  asked  forgiveness  for  the  numerous  acts 
of  villany  to  which  he  had  already  confessed,  and 
politely  took  leave  of  the  world  with  "  Adios,  cabal- 
leros."  He  was  then  run  up  to  a  butcher's  derrick 
by  the  Vigilance  Committee,  all  the  members  having 
hold  of  the  rope,  and  thus  sharing  the  responsibility 
of  the  act. 

A  very  few  days  after  I  left  San  Andres,  a  man 
was  lynched  for  a  robbery  committed  very  much  in 
the  same  manner.  But  if  stringent  measures  were 
wanted  in  one  part  of  the  country  more  than  another, 
it  was  in  such  flimsy  canvass  towns  as  these  two 
places,  where  there  was  such  a  population  of  worthless 
Mexican  canaille,  who  were  too  lazy  to  work  for 
an  honest  livelihood. 

I  went  on  in  a  few  days  to  Angel's  Camp,  a  village 


some  miles  farther  south,  composed  of  well  -  built 
wooden  houses,  and  altogether  a  more  respectable 
and  civilised-looking  place  than  San  Andres.  The 
inhabitants  were  nearly  all  Americans,  which  no 
doubt  accounted  for  the  circumstance. 

While  walking  round  the  diggings  in  the  afternoon, 
I  came  upon  a  Chinese  camp  in  a  gulch  near  the 
village.  About  a  hundred  Chinamen  had  here 
pitched  their  tents  on  a  rocky  eminence  by  the  side 
of  their  diggings.  When  I  passed  they  were  at 
dinner  or  supper,  and  had  all  the  curious  little  pots 
and  pans  and  other  "fixins"  which  I  had  seen  in  every 
Chinese  camp,  and  were  eating  the  same  dubious- 
looking  articles  which  excite  in  the  mind  of  an  out- 
side barbarian  a  certain  degree  of  curiosity  to  know 
what  they  are  composed  of,  but  not  the  slightest 
desire  to  gratify  it  by  the  sense  of  taste.  I  was  very 
hospitably  asked  to  partake  of  the  good  things,  which 
I  declined ;  but  as  I  would  not  eat,  they  insisted  on 
my  drinking,  and  poured  me  out  a  pannikin  full  of 
brandy,  which  they  seemed  rather  surprised  I  did  not 
empty.  They  also  gave  me  some  of  their  cigaritas, 
the  tobacco  of  which  is  aromatic,  and  very  pleasant 
to  smoke,  though  wrapped  up  in  too  much  paper. 

The  Chinese  invariably  treated  in  the  same  hos- 
pitable manner  any  one  who  visited  their  camps, 
and  seemed  rather  pleased  than  otherwise  at  the 
interest  and  curiosity  excited  by  their  domestic 

In  the  evening,  a  ball  took  place  at  the  hotel  I 

320  A    BALL. 

was  staying  at,  where,  though  none  of  the  fair  sex 
were  present,  dancing  was  kept  up  with  great  spirit 
for  several  hours.  For  music  the  company  were 
indebted  to  two  amateurs,  one  of  whom  played  the 
fiddle  and  the  other  the  flute.  It  is  customary  in 
the  mines  for  the  fiddler  to  take  the  responsibility 
of  keeping  the  dancers  all  right.  He  goes  through 
the  dance  orally,  and  at  the  proper  intervals  his 
voice  is  heard  above  the  music  and  the  conversation, 
shouting  loudly  his  directions  to  the  dancers,  "  Lady's 
chain,"  "  Set  to  your  partner,"  with  other  dancing- 
school  words  of  command ;  and  after  all  the  legiti- 
mate figures  of  the  dance  had  been  performed,  out 
of  consideration  for  the  thirsty  appetites  of  the 
dancers,  and  for  the  good  of  the  house,  he  always 
announced,  in  a  louder  voice  than  usual,  the  supple- 
mentary finale  of  "  Promenade  to  the  bar,  and  treat 
your  partners."  This  injunction,  as  may  be  sup- 
posed, was  most  rigorously  obeyed,  and  the  "  ladies," 
after  their  fatigues,  tossed  off  their  cocktails  and 
lighted  their  pipes  just  as  in  more  polished  circles 
they  eat  ice-creams  and  sip  lemonade. 

It  was  a  strange  sight  to  see  a  party  of  long- 
bearded  men,  in  heavy  boots  and  flannel  shirts,  going 
through  all  the  steps  and  figures  of  the  dance  with 
so  much  spirit,  and  often  with  a  great  deal  of 
grace,  hearty  enjoyment  depicted  on  their  dried-up 
sunburned  faces,  and  revolvers  and  bowie-knives 
glancing  in  their  belts ;  while  a  crowd  of  the  same 
rough-looking  customers  stood  around,  cheering  them 


on  to  greater  efforts,  and  occasionally  dancing  a  step 
or  two  quietly  on  their  own  account.  Dancing 
parties  such  as  these  were  very  common,  especially 
in  small  camps  where  there  was  no  such  general 
resort  as  the  gambling-saloons  of  the  larger  towns. 
Wherever  a  fiddler  could  be  found  to  play,  a  dance 
was  got  up.  Waltzes  and  polkas  were  not  so 
much  in  fashion  as  the  "Lancers"  which  appeared 
to  be  very  generally  known,  and,  besides,  gave 
plenty  of  exercise  to  the  light  fantastic  toes  of  the 
dancers  ;  for  here  men  danced,  as  they  did  every- 
thing else,  with  all  their  might;  and  to  go  through 
the  "  Lancers  "  in  such  company  was  a  very  severe 
gymnastic  exercise.  The  absence  of  ladies  was  a 
difficulty  which  was  very  easily  overcome,  by  a  simple 
arrangement  whereby  it  was  understood  that  every 
gentleman  who  had  a  patch  on  a  certain  part  of  his 
inexpressibles  should  be  considered  a  lady  for  the 
time  being.  These  patches  were  rather  fashionable, 
and  were  usually  large  squares  of  canvass,  showing 
brightly  on  a  dark  ground,  so  that  the  "  ladies  "  of 
the  party  were  as  conspicuous  as  if  they  had  been 
surrounded  by  the  usual  quantity  of  white  muslin, 

A  pas  seul  sometimes  varied  the  entertainment.  I 
was  present  on  one  occasion  at  a  dance  at  Foster's 
Bar,  when,  after  several  sets  of  the  "Lancers"  had 
been  danced,  a  young  Scotch  boy,  who  was  probably 
a  runaway  apprentice  from  a  Scotch  ship  —  for  the 
sailor  -boy  air  was  easily  seen  through  the  thick  coat- 
ing of  flour  which  he  had  acquired  in  his  present 


occupation  in  the  employment  of  a  French  baker- 
was  requested  to  dance  the  Highland  Fling  for  the 
amusement  of  the  company.  The  music  was  good, 
and  he  certainly  did  justice  to  it ;  dancing  most 
vigorously  for  about  a  quarter  of  an  hour,  shouting 
and  yelling  as  he  was  cheered  by  the  crowd,  and 
going  into  it  with  all  the  fury  of  a  wild  savage  in  a 
war-dance.  The  spectators  were  uproarious  in  their 
applause.  I  daresay  many  of  them  never  saw  such  an 
exhibition  before.  The  youngster  was  looked  upon 
as  a  perfect  prodigy,  and  if  he  had  drank  with  all 
the  men  who  then  sought  the  honour  of  "  treating  " 
him,  he  would  never  have  lived  to  tread  another 




FKOM  Angel's  Camp  I  went  on  a  few  miles  to  Car- 
son's Creek,  on  which  there  was  a  small  camp,  lying 
at  the  foot  of  a  hill,  which  was  named  after  the  same 
man.  On  its  summit  a  quartz  vein  cropped  out  in 
large  masses  to  the  height  of  thirty  or  forty  feet, 
looking  at  a  distance  like  the  remains  of  a  solid  wall 
of  fortification.  It  had  only  been  worked  a  few  feet 
from  the  surface,  but  already  an  incredible  amount 
of  gold  had  been  taken  out  of  it. 

Every  place  in  the  mines  had  its  traditions  of 
wonderful  events  which  had  occurred  in  the  olden 
times;  that  is  to  say,  as  far  back  as  "  '49  " — for  three 
years  in  such  a  fast  country  were  equal  to  a  century ; 
and  at  this  place  the  tradition  was,  that,  when  the 
quartz  vein  was  first  worked,  the  method  adopted 
was  to  put  in  a  blast,  and,  after  the  explosion,  to  go 


round  with  handbaskets  and  pick  up  the  pieces.  I 
believe  this  was  only  a  slight  exaggeration  of  the 
truth,  for  at  this  particular  part  of  the  vein  there  had 
been  found  what  is  there  called  a  "  pocket/'  a  spot 
not  more  than  a  few  feet  in  extent,  where  lumps  of 
gold  in  unusual  quantities  lie  imbedded  in  the  rock. 
No  systematic  plan  had  been  followed  in  opening  the 
mine  with  a  view  to  the  proper  working  of  it ;  but 
several  irregular  excavations  had  been  made  in  the 
rock  wherever  the  miners  had  found  the  gold  most 
plentiful.  For  nearly  a  year  it  had  not  been  worked 
at  all,  in  consequence  of  several  disputes  as  to  the 
ownership  of  the  claims;  and  in  the  mean  time  the 
lawyers  were  the  only  parties  who  were  making 
anything  out  of  it. 

On  the  other  side  of  the  hill,  however,  was  a  claim 
on  the  same  vein,  which  was  in  undisputed  possession 
of  a  company  of  Americans,  who  employed  a  number 
of  Mexicans  to  work  it,  under  the  direction  of  an 
experienced  old  Mexican  miner.  They  had  three 
shafts  sunk  in  the  solid  rock,  in  a  line  with  each  other, 
to  the  depth  of  two  hundred  feet,  from  which  galleries 
extended  at  different  points,  where  the  gold-bearing 
quartz  was  found  in  the  greatest  abundance.  No 
ropes  or  windlasses  were  used  for  descending  the 
shafts  ;  but  at  every  thirty  feet  or  so  there  was  a  sort 
of  step  or  platform,  resting  on  which  was  a  pole  with 
a  number  of  notches  cut  all  down  one  side  of  it ; 
and  the  rock  excavated  in  the  various  parts  of  the 
mine  was  brought  up  in  leathern  sacks  on  men's 

A  QUARTZ  VEIX.  325 

shoulders,  who  had  to  make  the  ascent  by  climbing 
a  succession  of  these  poles.  The  quartz  was  then 
conveyed  on  pack- mules  down  to  the  river  by  a  cir- 
cuitous trail,  which  had  been  cut  on  the  steep  side 
of  the  mountain,  and  was  there  ground  in  the  primi- 
tive Mexican  style  in  "rasters."  The  whole  opera- 
tion seemed  to  be  conducted  at  a  most  unnecessary 
expenditure  of  labour;  but  the  mine  was  rich,  and, 
even  worked  in  this  way,  it  yielded  largely  to  the 

Numerous  small  wooden  crosses  were  placed 
throughout  the  mine,  in  niches  cut  in  the  rock  for 
their  reception,  and  each  separate  part  of  the  mine 
was  named  after  a  saint  who  was  supposed  to  take 
those  working  in  it  under  his  immediate  protection. 
The  day  before  I  visited  the  place  had  been  some 
saint's  day,  and  the  Mexicans,  who  of  course  had 
made  a  holiday  of  it,  had  employed  themselves  in 
erecting,  on  the  side  of  the  hill  over  the  mine,  a  large 
cross,  about  ten  feet  high,  and  had  completely  clothed 
it  with  the  beautiful  wildflowers  which  grew  around 
in  the  greatest  profusion.  In  fact,  it  was  a  gigantic 
cruciform  nosegay,  the  various  colours  of  which  were 
arranged  with  a  great  deal  of  taste. 

This  mine  is  on  the  great  quartz  vein  which  tra- 
verses the  whole  State  of  California.  It  has  a  direc- 
tion north-east  and  south-west,  perfectly  true  by 
compass  ;  and  from  many  points  where  an  extensive 
view  of  the  country  is  obtained,  it  can  be  distinctly 
traced  for  a  great  distance  as  it  "  crops  out "  here 


and  there,  running  up  a  hill-side  like  a  colossal  stone- 
wall, and  then  disappearing  for  many  miles,  till,  true 
to  its  course,  it  again  shows  itself  crowning  the 
summit  of  some  conical-shaped  mountain,  and  appear- 
ing in  the  distant  view  like  so  many  short  white 
strokes,  all  forming  parts  of  the  same  straight  line. 

The  general  belief  was  that  at  one  time  all  the  gold 
in  the  country  had  been  imbedded  in  quartz,  which, 
being  decomposed  by  the  action  of  the  elements,  had 
set  the  gold  at  liberty,  to  be  washed  away  with  other 
debris,  and  to  find  a  resting-place  for  itself.  Eich 
diggings  were  frequently  found  in  the  neighbourhood 
of  quartz  veins,  but  not  invariably  so,  for  different 
local  causes  must  have  operated  to  assist  the  gold  in 
travelling  from  its  original  starting-point. 

As  a  general  rule,  the  richest  diggings  seemed  to 
be  in  the  rivers  at  those  points  where  the  eddies  gave 
the  gold  an  opportunity  of  settling  down  instead  of 
being  borne  further  along  by  the  current,  or  in  those 
places  on  the  high-lands  where,  owing  to  the  flatness 
of  the  surface  or  the  want  of  egress,  the  debris  had 
been  retained  while  the  water  ran  off ;  for  the  first 
idea  one  formed  from  the  appearance  of  the  moun- 
tains was,  that  they  had  been  very  severely  washed 
down,  but  that  there  had  been  sufficient  earth  and 
debris  to  cover  their  nakedness,  and  to  modify  the 
sharp  angularity  of  their  formation. 

I  crossed  the  Stanislaus — a  large  river,  which  does 
not  at  any  part  of  its  course  afford  very  rich  dig- 
gings— by  a  ferry  which  was  the  property  of  two  or 


three  Englishmen,  who  had  lived  for  many  years  in 
the  Sandwich  Islands.  The  force  of  the  current  was 
here  very  strong,  and  by  an  ingenious  contrivance 
was  made  available  for  working  the  ferry.  A  stout 
cable  was  stretched  across  the  river,  and  traversing 
on  this  were  two  blocks,  to  which  were  made  fast  the 
head  and  stern  of  a  large  scow.  By  lengthening  the 
stern  line,  the  scow  assumed  a  diagonal  position,  and, 
under  the  influence  of  the  current  and  of  the  oppos- 
ing force  of  the  cable,  she  travelled  rapidly  across 
the  river,  very  much  on  the  same  principle  on  which 
a  ship  holds  her  course  with  the  wind  a-beam. 

Ferries  or  bridges,  on  much-travelled  roads,  were 
very  valuable  property.  They  were  erected  at  those 
points  on  the  rivers  where  the  mountain  on  each  side 
offered  a  tolerably  easy  ascent,  and  where,  in  conse- 
quence, a  line  of  travel  had  commenced.  But  very 
frequently  more  easy  routes  were  found  than  the  one 
first  adopted ;  opposition  ferries  were  then  started, 
and  the  public  got  the  full  benefit  of  the  competition 
between  the  rival  proprietors,  who  sought  to  secure 
the  travelling  custom  by  improving  the  roads  which 
led  to  their  respective  ferries. 

In  opposition  to  this  ferry  on  the  Stanislaus,  another 
had  been  started  a  few  miles  down  the  river  ;  so  the 
Englishmen,  in  order  to  keep  up  the  value  of  their 
property  and  maintain  the  superiority  of  their  route, 
had  made  a  good  waggon-road,  more  than  a  mile  in 
length,  from  the  river  to  the  summit  of  the  mountain. 

After  ascending  by  this  road  and  travelling  five  or 

328  SONORA. 

six  miles  over  a  rolling  country  covered  with  magni- 
cent  oak  trees,  and  in  many  places  fenced  in  and 
under  cultivation,  I  arrived  at  Sonora,  the  largest 
town  of  the  southern  mines.  It  consisted  of  a  single 
street,  extending  for  upwards  of  a  mile  along  a  sort 
of  hollow  between  gently  sloping  hills.  Most  of  the 
houses  were  of  wood,  a  few  were  of  canvass,  and  one 
or  two  were  solid  buildings  of  sun-dried  bricks.  The 
lower  end  of  the  town  was  very  peculiar  in  appear- 
ance as  compared  with  the  prevailing  style  of  Cali- 
fornia architecture.  Ornament  seemed  to  have  been 
as  much  consulted  as  utility,  and  the  different  tastes 
of  the  French  and  Mexican  builders  were  very  plainly 
seen  in  the  high-peaked  overhanging  roofs,  the  stair- 
cases outside  the  houses,  the  corridors  round  each 
storey,  and  other  peculiarities  ;  giving  the  houses — 
which  were  painted,  moreover,  buff  and  pale  blue — 
quite  an  old-fashioned  air  alongside  of  the  staring 
white  rectangular  fronts  of  the  American  houses. 
There  was  less  pretence  and  more  honesty  about 
them  than  about  the  American  houses,  for  many  of 
the  latter  were  all  front,  and  gave  the  idea  of  a  much 
better  house  than  the  small  rickety  clapboard  or  can- 
vass concern  which  was  concealed  behind  it.  But 
these  fa9ades  were  useful  as  well  as  ornamental,  and 
were  intended  to  support  the  large  signs,  which  con- 
veyed an  immense  deal  of  useful  information.  Some 
small  stores,  in  fact,  seemed  bursting  with  intelli- 
gence, and  were  broken  out  all  over  with  short  spas- 
modic sentences  in  English,  French,  Spanish,  and 


German,  covering  all  the  available  space  save  the 
door,  and  presenting  to  the  passer-by  a  large  amount 
of  desultory  reading  as  to  the  nature  of  the  property 
within  and  the  price  at  which  it  could  be  bought. 
This,  however,  was  not  by  any  means  peculiar  to 
Sonora — it  was  the  general  style  of  thing  throughout 
the  country. 

The  Mexicans  and  the  French  also  were  very 
numerous,  and  there  was  an  extensive  assortment  of 
other  Europeans  from  all  quarters,  all  of  whom,  save 
French,  English,  and  "  Eyetalians,"  are  in  California 
classed  under  the  general  denomination  of  Dutchmen, 
or  more  frequently  "d — d  Dutchmen/'  merely  for 
the  sake  of  euphony. 

Sonora  is  situated  in  the  centre  of  an  extremely 
rich  mining  country,  more  densely  populated  than 
any  other  part  of  the  mines.  In  the  neighbourhood 
are  a  number  of  large  villages,  one  of  which,  Col- 
umbia, only  two  or  three  miles  distant,  was  not  much 
inferior  in  size  to  Sonora  itself.  The  place  took  its 
name  from  the  men  who  first  struck  the  diggings  and 
camped  on  the  spot — a  party  of  miners  from  the 
state  of  Sonora  in  Mexico.  The  Mexicans  discovered 
many  of  the  richest  diggings  in  the  country — not 
altogether,  perhaps,  through  good  luck,  for  they  had 
been  gold-hunters  all  their  lives,  and  may  be  supposed 
to  have  derived  some  benefit  from  their  experience. 
They  seldom,  however,  remained  long  in  possession 
of  rich  diggings  ;  never  working  with  any  vigour, 
they  spent  most  of  their  time  in  the  passive  enjoy- 


ment  of  their  cigaritas,  or  in  playing  monte,  and 
were  consequently  very  soon  run  over  and  driven 
off  the  field  by  the  rush  of  more  industrious  and 
resolute  men. 

There  were  a  considerable  number  of  Mexicans 
to  be  seen  at  work  round  Sonora,  but  the  most 
of  those  living  in  the  town  seemed  to  do  nothing 
but  bask  in  the  sun  and  loaf  about  the  gambling- 
rooms.  How  they  managed  to  live  was  not  very 
apparent,  but  they  can  live  where  another  man  would 
starve.  I  have  no  doubt  they  could  subsist  on 
cigaritas  alone  for  several  days  at  a  time. 

I  got  very  comfortable  quarters  in  one  of  the 
French  hotels,  of  which  there  were  several  in  the 
town,  besides  a  number  of  good  American  houses, 
German  restaurants,  where  lager-bier  was  drunk  by 
the  gallon;  Mexican  fondas,  which  had  an  exceed- 
ingly greasy  look  about  them;  and  also  a  Chinese 
house,  where  everything  was  most  scrupulously 
clean.  In  this  latter  place  a  Chinese  woman,  dressed 
in  European  style,  sat  behind  the  bar  and  served 
out  drinkables  to  thirsty  outside  barbarians,  while 
three  Chinamen  entertained  them  with  celestial  music 
from  a  drum  something  like  the  top  of  a  skull  cover- 
ed with  parchment,  and  stuck  upon  three  sticks,  a 
guitar  like  a  long  stick  with  a  knob  at  the  end  of 
it,  and  a  sort  of  fiddle  with  two  strings.  I  asked  the 
Chinese  landlord,  who  spoke  a  little  English,  if  the 
woman  was  his  wife.  "  Oh,  no,"  he  said,  very  in- 
dignantly, "  only  hired  woman — China  woman ;  hired 

THE  POLICE.  331 

her  for  show — that's  all."  Some  of  these  Chinamen 
are  pretty  smart  fellows,  and  this  was  one  of  them. 
The  novelty  of  the  "  show,"  however,  wore  off  in  a 
few  days,  and  the  Chinawoman  disappeared — probably 
went  to  show  herself  in  other  diggings. 

One  could  live  here  in  a  way  which  seemed  per- 
fectly luxurious  after  cruising  about  the  mountains 
among  the  small  out-of-the-way  camps ;  for,  besides 
having  a  choice  of  good  hotels,  one  could  enjoy  most 
of  the  comforts  and  conveniences  of  ordinary  life; 
even  ice-creams  and  sherry-cobblers  were  to  be  had, 
for  snow  was  packed  in  on  mules  thirty  or  forty 
miles  from  the  Sierra  Nevada,  and  no  one  took  even 
a  cocktail  without  its  being  iced.  But  what  struck 
me  most  as  a  sign  of  civilisation,  was  seeing  a  drunken 
man,  who  was  kicking  up  a  row  in  the  street,  deli- 
berately collared  and  walked  off  to  the  lock-up  by  a 
policeman.  I  never  saw  such  a  thing  before  in  the 
mines,  where  the  spectacle  of  drunken  men  rolling 
about  the  streets  unmolested  had  become  so  familiar 
to  me  that  I  was  almost  inclined  to  think  it  an  in- 
fringement of  the  individual  liberty  of  the  subject — or 
of  the  citizen,  I  should  say — not  to  allow  this  hog 
of  a  fellow  to  sober  himself  in  the  gutter,  or  to  drink 
himsell  into  a  state  of  quiescence  if  he  felt  so 
inclined.  This  policeman  represented  the  whole 
police  force  in  his  own  proper  person,  and  truly  he 
had  no  sinecure.  He  was  not  exactly  like  one  of  our 
own  blue-bottles  ;  he  was  not  such  a  stoical  observer 
of  passing  events,  nor  so  shut  out  from  all  social 


intercourse  with  his  fellow-men.  There  was  nothing 
to  distinguish  him  from  other  citizens,  except  perhaps 
the  unusual  size  of  his  revolver  and  bowie-knife  ;  and 
his  official  dignity  did  not  prevent  him  from  mixing 
with  the  crowd  and  taking  part  in  whatever  amuse- 
ment was  going  on. 

The  people  here  dressed  better  than  was  usual  in 
other  parts  of  the  mines.  On  Sundays  especially, 
when  the  town  was  thronged  with  miners,  it  was 
quite  gay  with  the  bright  colours  of  the  various 
costumes.  There  were  numerous  specimens  of  the 
genuine  old  miner  to  be  met  with — the  miner  of  '49, 
whose  pride  it  was  to  be  clothed  in  rags  and  patches  ; 
but  the  prevailing  fashion  was  to  dress  well ;  indeed 
there  was  a  degree  of  foppery  about  many  of  the 
swells,  who  were  got  up  in  a  most  gorgeous  manner. 
The  weather  was  much  too  hot  for  any  one  to  think 
of  wearing  a  coat,  but  the  usual  style  of  dress  was 
such  as  to  appear  quite  complete  without  it ;  in  fact, 
a  coat  would  have  concealed  the  most  showy  article 
of  dress,  which  was  a  rich  silk  handkerchief,  scarlet, 
crimson,  orange,  or  some  bright  hue,  tied  loosely 
across  the  breast,  and  hanging  over  one  shoulder  like 
a  shoulder-belt.  Some  men  wore  flowers,  feathers, 
or  squirrel's  tails  in  their  hats ;  occasionally  the 
beard  was  worn  plaited  and  coiled  up  like  a  twist  of 
tobacco,  or  was  divided  into  three  tails  hanging  down 
to  the  waist.  One  man,  of  original  ideas,  who  had 
very  long  hair,  brought  it  down  on  each  side  of  the 
face,  and  tied  it  in  a  large  bow-knot  under  his  chin  ; 


and  many  other  eccentricities  of  this  sort  were  in- 
dulged in.  The  numbers  of  Mexican  women  with 
their  white  dresses  and  sparkling  black  eyes  were  by 
no  means  an  unpleasing  addition  to  the  crowd,  of 
which  the  Mexicans  themselves  formed  a  conspicuous 
part  in  their  variegated  blankets  and  broad-brimmed 
hats.  There  were  men  in  bonnets  rouges  and  bonnets 
bleus,  the  cut  of  whose  mustache  and  beard  was  of 
itself  sufficient  to  distinguish  them  as  Frenchmen ; 
while  here  and  there  some  forlorn  individual  exhibited 
himself  in  a  black  coat  and  a  stove-pipe  hat,  looking 
like  a  bird  of  evil  omen  among  a  flock  of  such  gay 



A  COMPANY  of  Mexican  bull-fighters  were  at  this  time 
performing  in  Sonora  every  Sunday  afternoon.  The 
amphitheatre  was  a  large  well-built  place,  erected  for 
the  purpose  on  a  small  hill  behind  the  street.  The 
arena  was  about  thirty  yards  in  diameter,  and  enclosed 
in  a  very  strong  six-barred  fence,  gradually  rising 
from  which,  all  round,  were  several  tiers  of  seats, 
shaded  from  the  sun  by  an  awning. 

I  took  the  first  opportunity  of  witnessing  the  spec- 
tacle, and  found  a  very  large  company  assembled, 
among  whom  the  Mexicans  and  Mexican  women  in 
their  gay  dresses  figured  conspicuously.  A  good  band 
of  music  enlivened  the  scene  till  the  appointed  hour 
arrived,  when  the  bull-fighters  entered  the  arena. 
The  procession  was  headed  by  a  clown  in  a  fantastic 
dress,  who  acted  his  part  throughout  the  performances 
uncommonly  well,  cracking  jokes  with  his  friends 
among  the  audience,  and  singing  comic  songs.  Next 
came  four  men  on  foot,  all  beautifully  dressed  in 

A  BULL-FIGHT.  335 

satin  jackets  and  knee-breeches,  slashed  and  em- 
broidered with  bright  colours.  Two  horsemen,  armed 
with  lances,  brought  up  the  rear.  After  marching  round 
the  arena,  they  stationed  themselves  in  their  various 
places,  one  of  the  horsemen  being  at  the  side  of  the 
door  by  which  the  bull  was  to  enter.  The  door  was  then 
opened,  and  the  bull  rushed  in,  the  horseman  giving 
him  a  poke  with  his  lance  as  he  passed,  just  to  waken 
him  up.  The  footmen  were  all  waving  their  red  flags 
to  attract  his  attention,  and  he  immediately  charged 
at  one  of  them ;  but,  the  man  stepping  gracefully  aside 
at  the  proper  moment,  the  bull  passed  on  and  found 
another  red  flag  waiting  for  him,  which  he  charged 
with  as  little  success.  For  some  time  they  played 
with  the  bull  in  this  manner,  hopping  and  skipping 
about  before  his  horns  with  so  much  confidence,  and 
such  apparent  ease,  as  to  give  one  the  idea  that  there 
was  neither  danger  nor  difficulty  in  dodging  a  wild 
bull.  The  bull  did  not  charge  so  much  as  he  butted, 
for,  almost  without  changing  his  ground,  he  butted 
quickly  several  times  in  succession  at  the  same  man. 
The  man,  however,  was  always  too  quick  for  him, 
sometimes  just  drawing  the  flag  across  his  face  as  he 
stepped  aside,  or  vaulting  over  his  horns  and  catching 
hold  of  his  tail  before  he  could  turn  round. 

After  this  exhibition  one  of  the  horsemen  endea- 
voured to  engage  the  attention  of  the  bull,  and  when 
he  charged,  received  him  with  the  point  of  his  lance 
on  the  back  of  the  neck.  In  this  position  they  strug- 
gled against  each  other,  the  horse  pushing  against  the 


bull  with  all  his  force,  probably  knowing  that  that 
was  his  only  chance.  On  one  occasion  the  lance 
broke,  when  horse  and  rider  seemed  to  be  at  the 
mercy  of  the  bull,  but  as  quick  as  lightning  the  foot- 
men were  fluttering  their  flags  in  his  face  and  divert- 
ing his  fury,  while  the  horseman  got  another  lance 
and  returned  to  the  charge. 

Shortly  afterwards  the  footmen  laid  aside  their 
flags  and  proceeded  to  what  is  considered  a  more 
dangerous,  and  consequently  more  interesting,  part  of 
the  performances.  They  lighted  cigars,  and  were 
handed  small  pieces  of  wood,  with  a  barbed  point  at 
one  end  and  a  squib  at  the  other.  Having  lighted 
his  squibs  at  his  cigar,  one  of  their  number  rushes  up 
in  front  of  the  bull,  shouting  and  stamping  before 
him,  as  if  challenging  him  to  come  on.  The  bull  is 
not  slow  of  putting  down  his  head  and  making  at  him, 
when  the  man  vaults  nimbly  over  his  horns,  leaving 
a  squib  fizzing  and  cracking  on  each  side  of  his  neck. 
This  makes  the  bull  still  more  furious,  but  another 
man  is  ready  for  him,  who  plays  him  the  same  trick, 
and  so  they  go  on  till  his  neck  is  covered  with  squibs. 
One  of  them  then  takes  a  large  rosette,  furnished 
in  like  manner  with  a  sharp  barbed  point,  and  this, 
as  the  bull  butts  at  him,  he  sticks  in  his  forehead 
right  between  the  eyes.  Another  man  then  engages 
the  bull,  and,  while  eluding  his  horns,  removes  the 
rosette  from  his  forehead.  This  is  considered  a  still 
more  difficult  feat,  and  was  greeted  with  immense 


applause,  the  Mexican  part  of  the  audience  screaming 
with  delight. 

The  performers  were  all  uncommonly  well  made, 
handsome  men  ;  their  tight  dresses  greatly  assisted 
their  appearance,  and  they  moved  with  so  much  grace, 
and  with  such  an  expression  on  their  countenance  of 
pleasure  and  confidence,  even  while  making  their 
greatest  efforts,  that  they  might  have  been  supposed 
to  be  going  through  the  figures  of  a  ballet  on  the 
stage,  instead  of  risking  death  from  the  horns  of  a  wild 
bull  at  every  step  they  executed.  During  the  latter 
part  of  the  performance,  being  without  their  red  flags, 
they  were  of  course  in  greater  danger ;  but  it  seemed 
to  make  no  difference  to  them  ;  they  put  a  squib  in 
each  side  of  the  bull's  neck,  while  evading  his  attack, 
with  as  much  apparent  ease  as  they  had  dodged  him 
from  behind  their  red  flags.  Sometimes,  indeed, 
when  they  were  hard  pressed,  or  when  attacked  by 
the  bull  so  close  to  the  barrier  that  they  had  no  room 
to  manoeuvre  round  him,  they  sprang  over  it  in 
among  the  spectators. 

The  next  thing  in  the  programme  was  riding  the 
bull,  and  this  was  the  most  amusing  scene  of  all.  One 
of  the  horsemen  lassoes  him  over  the  horns,  and  the 
other,  securing  him  in  his  lasso  by  the  hind-leg,  trips 
him  up,  and  throws  him  without  the  least  difficulty. 
By  keeping  the  lassoes  taut,  he  is  quite  helpless.  He 
is  then  girthed  with  a  rope,  and  one  of  the  performers, 
holding  on  by  this,  gets  astride  of  the  prostrate 

338  RIDING   THE   BULL. 

bull  in  such  a  way  as  to  secure  his  seat,  when  the  ani- 
mal rises.  The  lassoes  are  then  cast  off,  when  the 
bull  immediately  gets  up,  and,  furious  at  finding  a 
man  on  his  back,  plunges  and  kicks  most  desperately, 
jumping  from  side  to  side,  and  jerking  himself  vio- 
lently in  every  way,  as  he  vainly  endeavours  to  bring 
his  horns  round  so  as  to  reach  his  rider.  I  never 
saw  such  horsemanship,  if  horsemanship  it  could  be 
called ;  nor  did  I  ever  see  a  horse  go  through  such 
contortions,  or  make  such  spasmodic  bounds  and  leaps : 
but  the  fellow  never  lost  his  seat,  he  stuck  to  the  bull 
as  firm  as  a  rock,  though  thrown  about  so  violently 
that  it  seemed  enough  to  jerk  the  head  off  his  body. 
During  this  singular  exhibition  the  spectators  cheered 
and  shouted  most  uproariously,  and  the  bull  was 
maddened  to  greater  fury  than  ever  by  the  footmen 
shaking  their  flags  in  his  face,  and  putting  more 
squibs  on  his  neck.  It  seemed  to  be  the  grand  cli- 
max ;  they  had  exhausted  all  means  to  infuriate  the 
bull  to  the  very  utmost,  and  they  were  now  braving 
him  more  audaciously  than  ever.  Had  any  of  them 
made  a  slip  of  the  foot,  or  misjudged  his  distance  but 
a  hairbreadth,  there  would  have  been  a  speedy  end  of 
him;  but  fortunately  no  such  mishap  occurred,  for 
the  blind  rage  of  the  bull  was  impotent  against  their 
coolness  and  precision. 

"When  the  man  riding  the  bull  thought  he  had 
enough  of  it,  he  took  an  opportunity  when  the  bull 
came  near  the  outside  of  the  arena,  and  hopped  off 
his  back  on  to  the  top  of  the  barrier.  A  door  was 

THE   MATADOR.  339 

then  opened,  and  the  bull  was  allowed  to  depart  in 
peace.  Three  or  four  more  bulls  in  succession  were 
fought  in  the  same  manner.  The  last  of  them  was  to 
have  been  killed  with  the  sword ;  but  he  proved  one  of 
those  sulky  treacherous  animals  who  do  not  fight  fair ; 
he  would  not  put  down  his  head  and  charge  blindly 
at  anything  or  everything,  but  only  made  a  rush  now 
and  then,  when  he  thought  he  had  a  sure  chance. 
With  a  bull  of  this  sort  there  is  great  danger,  while 
with  a  furiously  savage  one  there  is  none  at  all — so  say 
the  bull-fighters ;  and  after  doing  all  they  could,  with- 
out success,  to  madden  and  irritate  this  sulky  animal, 
he  was  removed,  and  another  one  was  brought  in, 
who  had  already  shown  a  requisite  amount  of  blind 
fury  in  his  disposition. 

A  long  straight  sword  was  then  handed  to  the 
matador,  who,  with  his  flag  in  his  left  hand,  played 
with  the  bull  for  a  little,  evading  several  attacks  till 
he  got  one  to  suit  him,  when,  as  he  stepped  aside 
from  before  the  bull's  horns,  he  plunged  the  sword 
into  the  back  of  his  neck.  Without  a  moan  or  a 
struggle  the  bull  fell  dead  on  the  instant,  coming 
down  all  of  a  heap,  in  such  a  way  that  it  was  evident 
that  even  before  he  fell  he  was  dead.  I  have  seen 
cattle  butchered  in  every  sort  of  way,  but  in  none  was 
the  transition  from  life  to  death  so  instantaneous. 

This  was  the  grand  feat  of  the  day,  and  was 
thought  to  have  been  most  beautifully  performed. 
The  spectators  testified  their  delight  by  the  most 
vociferous  applause  ;  the  Mexican  women  waved  their 

340  A   CONJUROR. 

handkerchiefs,  the  Mexicans  cheered  and  shouted,  and 
threw  their  hats  in  the  air,  while  the  matador 
walked  proudly  round  the  arena,  bowing  to  the 
people  amid  a  shower  of  coin  which  his  particular 
admirers  in  their  enthusiasm  bestowed  upon  him. 

I  one  day,  at  some  diggings  a  few  miles  from 
Sonora,  came  across  a  young  fellow  hard  at  work 
with  his  pick  and  shovel,  whom  I  had  met  several 
times  at  Moquelumne  Hill  and  other  places.  In  the 
course  of  conversation  he  told  me  that  he  was  tired  of 
mining,  and  intended  to  practise  his  profession  again  ; 
upon  which  I  immediately  set  him  down  as  either  a 
lawyer  or  a  doctor,  there  are  such  lots  of  them  in  the 
mines.  I  had  the  curiosity,  however,  to  ask  him 
what  profession  he  belonged  to, — "  Oh,"  he  said,  "  I 
am  a  magician,  a  necromancer,  a  conjuror !"  The 
idea  of  a  magician  being  reduced  to  the  level  of  an 
ordinary  mortal,  and  being  obliged  to  resort  to  such 
a  matter-of-fact  way  of  making  money  as  digging 
gold  out  of  the  earth,  instead  of  conjuring  it  ready 
coined  out  of  other  men's  pockets,  appeared  to  me  so 
very  ridiculous  that  I  could  not  help  laughing  at 
the  thought  of  it.  The  magician  was  by  no  means 
offended,  but  joined  in  the  laugh ;  and  for  the  next 
hour  or  more  he  entertained  me  with  an  account  of 
his  professional  experiences,  and  the  many  difficulties 
he  had  to  encounter  in  practising  his  profession  in 
such  a  place  as  the  mines,  where  complete  privacy 
was  so  hard  to  be  obtained  that  he  was  obliged  to 
practise  the  most  secret  parts  of  his  mysterious  science 


in  all  sorts  of  ragged  canvass  houses,  or  else  in  rooms 
whose  rickety  boarded  walls  were  equally  ineffectual  in 
excluding  the  prying  gaze  of  the  unwashed.  He  gave 
me  a  great  insight  into  the  mysteries  of  magic,  and 
explained  to  me  how  he  performed  many  of  his  tricks. 
All  the  old-fashioned  hat-tricks,  he  said,  were  quite  out 
of  the  question  in  California,  where,  as  no  two  hats  are 
alike,  it  would  have  been  impossible  to  have  such  an 
immense  assortment  ready,  from  which  to  select  a  sub- 
stitute for  any  nondescript  head- piece  which  might  be 
given  to  him  to  perform  upon.  I  asked  him  to  show 
me  some  of  his  sleight-of-hand  tricks,  but  he  said  his 
hands  had  got  so  hard  with  mining  that  he  would 
have  to  let  them  soften  for  a  month  or  two  before  he 
could  recover  his  magical  powers. 

He  was  quite  a  young  man,  but  had  been  regularly 
brought  up  to  his  profession,  having  spent  several 
years  as  confederate  to  some  magician  of  higher 
powers  in  the  States — somewhat  similar,  I  presume, 
to  serving  an  apprenticeship,  for  when  I  mentioned 
the  names  of  several  of  his  professional  brethren 
whose  performances  I  had  witnessed,  he  would  say, 
"  Ah,  yes,  I  know  him  ;  he  was  confederate  to  so- 

As  he  intended  very  soon  to  resume  his  practice,  he 
was  on  the  look-out  for  a  particularly  smart  boy  to 
initiate  as  his  confederate  ;  and  I  imagine  he  had 
little  difficulty  in  finding  one,  for,  as  a  general  thing, 
the  rising  generation  of  California  are  supernaturally 
smart  and  precocious. 


I  met  here  also  an  old  friend  in  the  person  of  the 
Scotch  gardener  who  had  been  my  fellow-passenger 
from  New  York  to  Chagres,  and  who  was  also  one 
of  our  party  on  the  Chagres  Eiver.  He  was  now  farm  - 
ing,  having  taken  up  a  "  ranch"  a  few  miles  from 
Sonora,  near  a  place  called  Table  Mountain,  where  he 
had  several  acres  well  fenced  and  cleared,  and  bearing 
a  good  crop  of  barley  and  oats,  and  was  busy  clearing 
and  preparing  more  land  for  cultivation. 

This  Table  Mountain  is  a  very  curious  place,  being 
totally  different  in  appearance  and  formation  from 
any  other  mountain  in  the  country.  It  is  a  long 
range,  several  miles  in  extent,  perfectly  level,  and  in 
width  varying  from  fifty  yards  to  a  quarter  of  a 
mile,  having  somewhat  the  appearance,  when  seen 
from  a  distance,  of  a  colossal  railway  embankment. 
In  height  it  is  below  the  average  of  the  surround- 
ing mountains  ;  the  sides  are  very  steep,  sometimes 
almost  perpendicular,  and  are  formed,  as  is  also  the 
summit,  of  masses  of  a  burned-looking  conglomerate 
rock,  of  which  the  component  stones  are  occasionally 
as  large  as  a  man's  head.  The  summit  is  smooth, 
and  black  with  these  cinder-like  stones  ;  but  at  the 
season  of  the  year  at  which  I  was  there,  it  was  a  most 
beautiful  sight,  being  thickly  grown  over  with  a  pale- 
blue  flower,  apparently  a  lupin,  which  so  completely 
covered  this  long  level  tract  of  ground  as  to  give  it 
in  the  distance  the  appearance  of  a  sheet  of  water. 
No  one  at  that  time  had  thought  of  working  this 


SHAW'S  FLATS.  343 

place,  but  it  has  since  been  discovered  to  be  immensely 

A  break  in  this  long  narrow  Table  Mountain  was 
formed  by  a  place  called  Shaw's  Flats,  a  wide  extent 
of  perfectly  flat  country,  four  or  five  miles  across,  well 
wooded  with  oaks,  and  plentifully  sprinkled  over 
with  miners'  tents  and  shanties. 

The  diggings  were  rich.  The  gold  was  very  coarse, 
and  frequently  found  in  large  lumps  ;  but  how  it  got 
there  was  not  easy  to  conjecture,  for  the  flat  was  on 
a  level  with  Table  Mountain,  and  hollows  intervened 
between  it  and  any  higher  ground.  Mining  here 
was  quite  a  clean  and  easy  operation.  Any  old 
gentleman  might  have  gone  in  and  taken  a  turn  at  it 
for  an  hour  or  two  before  dinner  just  to  give  him  an 
appetite,  without  even  wetting  the  soles  of  his  boots  : 
indeed,  he  might  have  fancied  he  was  only  digging  in 
his  garden,  for  the  gold  was  found  in  the  very  roots 
of  the  grass,  and  in  most  parts  there  was  only  a  depth 
of  three  or  four  feet  from  the  surface  to  the  bed- 
rock, which  was  of  singular  character,  being  com- 
posed of  masses  of  sandstone  full  of  circular  cavities, 
and  presenting  all  manner  of  fantastic  forms,  caused 
apparently  by  the  long-continued  action  of  water 
in  rapid  motion. 



WHILE  I  was  in  Sonora,  the  entire  town,  with  the 
greater  part  of  the  property  it  contained,  was  utterly 
annihilated  by  fire. 

It  was  about  one  o'clock  in  the  morning  when  the 
fire  broke  out.  I  happened  to  be  awake  at  the  time, 
and  at  the  first  alarm  I  jumped  up,  and,  looking  out 
of  my  window,  I  saw  a  house  a  short  distance  up  the 
street  on  the  other  side  completely  enveloped  in 
flames.  The  street  was  lighted  up  as  bright  as  day, 
and  was  already  alive  with  people  hurriedly  removing 
whatever  articles  they  could  from  their  houses  before 
the  fire  seized  upon  them. 

I  ran  down  stairs  to  lend  a  hand  to  clear  the  house, 
and  in  the  bar-room  I  found  the  landlady,  e?i  deshabille, 
walking  frantically  up  and  down,  and  putting  her 
hand  to  her  head  as  though  she  meant  to  tear  all  her 
hair  out  by  the  roots.  She  had  sense  enough  left, 
however,  not  to  do  so.  A  waiter  was  there  also,  with 
just  as  little  of  his  wits  about  him ;  he  was  chatter- 

FIRE.  345 

irig  fiercely,  sacreing  very  freely,  and  knocking  the 
chairs  and  tables  about  in  a  wild  manner,  but  not 
making  a  direct  attempt  to  save  anything.  It  was 
ridiculous  to  see  them  throwing  away  so  much  bodily 
exertion  for  nothing,  when  there  was  so  much  to  be 
done,  so  I  set  the  example  by  opening  the  door,  and 
carrying  out  whatever  was  nearest.  The  other  in- 
mates of  the  house  soon  made  their  appearance,  and 
we  succeeded  in  gutting  the  bar-room  of  everything 
movable,  down  to  the  bar  furniture,  among  which 
was  a  bottle  labelled  "  Ouisqui." 

We  could  save  little  else,  however,  for  already  the 
fire  had  reached  us.  The  house  was  above  a  hundred 
yards  from  where  the  fire  broke  out,  but  from  the 
first  alarm  till  it  was  in  flames  scarcely  ten  minutes 
elapsed.  The  fire  spread  with  equal  rapidity  in  the 
other  direction.  An  attempt  was  made  to  save  the 
upper  part  of  the  town  by  tearing  down  a  number  of 
houses  some  distance  in  advance  of  the  flames  ;  but  it 
was  impossible  to  remove  the  combustible  materials 
of  which  they  were  composed,  and  the  fire  suffered 
no  check  in  its  progress,  devouring  the  demolished 
houses  as  voraciously  in  that  state  as  though  they 
had  been  left  entire. 

On  the  hills,  between  which  lay  the  town,  were 
crowds  of  the  unfortunate  inhabitants,  many  of  whom 
were  but  half  dressed,  and  had  barely  escaped  with 
their  lives.  One  man  told  me  he  had  been  obliged  to 
run  for  it,  and  had  not  even  time  to  take  his  gold 
watch  from  under  his  pillow. 


Those  whose  houses  were  so  far  distant  from  the 
origin  of  the  fire  as  to  enable  them  to  do  so,  had  carried 
out  all  their  movable  property,  and  were  sitting 
among  heaps  of  goods  and  furniture,  confusedly  thrown 
together,  watching  grimly  the  destruction  of  their 
houses.  The  whole  hill-side  was  lighted  up  as  brightly 
as  a  well-lighted  room,  and  the  surrounding  land- 
scape was  distinctly  seen  by  the  blaze  of  the  burning 
town,  the  hills  standing  brightly  out  from  the  deep 
black  of  the  horizon,  while  overhead  the  glare  of  the 
fire  was  reflected  by  the  smoky  atmosphere. 

It  was  a  most  magnificent  sight,  and,  more  than 
any  fire  I  had  ever  witnessed,  it  impressed  one  with 
the  awful  power  and  fury  of  the  destroying  element. 
It  was  not  like  a  fire  in  a  city  where  man  contends 
with  it  for  the  victory,  and  where  one  can  mark  the 
varied  fortunes  of  the  battle  as  the  flames  become 
gradually  more  feeble  under  the  efforts  of  the  firemen, 
or  again  gain  the  advantage  as  they  reach  some  easier 
prey  ;  but  here  there  were  no  such  fluctuations  in  the 
prospects  of  the  doomed  city — it  lay  helplessly  wait- 
ing its  fate,  for  water  there  was  none,  and  no  resist- 
ance could  be  offered  to  the  raging  flames,  which 
burned  their  way  steadily  up  the  street,  throwing 
over  the  houses  which  still  remained  intact  the  flush 
of  supernatural  beauty  which  precedes  dissolution, 
and  leaving  the  ground  already  passed  over  covered 
with  the  gradually  blackening  and  falling  remains  ot 
those  whose  spirit  had  already  departed. 

There  was  an  occasional  flash  and  loud  explosion, 


caused  by  the  quantities  of  powder  in  some  of  the 
stores,  and  a  continual  discharge  of  firearms  was 
heard  above  the  roaring  of  the  flames,  from  the  num- 
bers of  loaded  revolvers  which  had  been  left  to  their 
fate  along  with  more  valuable  property.  The  most 
extraordinary  sight  was  when  the  fire  got  firm  hold 
of  a  Jew's  slop-shop  ;  there  was  then  a  perfect  whirl- 
wind of  flame,  in  which  coats,  shirts,  and  blankets 
were  carried  up  fifty  or  sixty  feet  in  the  air,  and 
became  dissolved  into  a  thousand  sparkling  atoms. 

Among  the  crowds  of  people  on  the  hill-side  there 
was  little  of  the  distress  and  excitement  one  might 
have  expected  to  see  on  such  an  occasion.  The 
houses  and  stores  had  been  gutted  as  far  as  practi- 
cable of  the  property  they  contained,  and  all  that  it 
was  possible  to  do  to  save  any  part  of  the  town  had 
already  been  attempted,  but  the  hopelessness  of  such 
attempts  was  perfectly  evident. 

The  greater  part  of  the  people,  it  is  true,  were  indi- 
viduals whose  wealth  was  safe  in  their  buckskin 
purses,  and  to  them  the  pleasure  of  beholding  such  a 
grand  pyrotechnic  display  was  unalloyed  by  any 
greater  individual  misfortune  than  the  loss  of  a  few 
articles  of  clothing  ;  but  even  those  who  were  sitting 
hatless  and  shoeless  among  the  wreck  of  their  pro- 
perty showed  little  sign  of  being  at  all  cast  down  by 
their  disaster  ;  they  had  more  the  air  of  determined 
men,  waiting  for  the  fire  to  play  out  its  hand  before 
they  again  set  to  work  to  repair  all  the  destruction  it 
had  caused. 


The  fire  commenced  about  half-past  one  o'clock  in 
the  morning,  and  by  three  o'clock  it  had  almost 
burned  itself  out.  Darkness  again  prevailed,  and 
when  day  dawned,  the  whole  city  of  Sonora  had  been 
removed  from  the  face  of  the  earth.  The  ground  on 
which  it  had  stood,  now  white  with  ashes,  was 
covered  with  still  smouldering  fragments,  and  the 
only  objects  left  standing  were  three  large  safes 
belonging  to  different  banking  and  express  com- 
panies, with  a  small  remnant  of  the  walls  of  an  adobe 

People  now  began  to  venture  down  upon  the  still 
smoking  site  of  the  city,  and,  seeing  an  excitement 
among  them  at  the  lower  end  of  the  town,  I  went 
down  to  see  what  was  going  on.  The  atmosphere 
was  smoky  and  stifling,  and  the  ground  was  almost 
too  hot  to  stand  on.  The  crowd  was  collected  on  a 
place  which  was  known  to  be  very  rich,  as  the  ground 
behind  the  houses  had  been  worked,  and  a  large 
amount  of  gold  having  been  there  extracted,  it  was 
consequently  presumed  that  under  the  houses  equally 
good  diggings  would  be  found.  During  the  fire,  miners 
had  flocked  in  from  all  quarters,  and  among  them 
were  some  unprincipled  vagabonds,  who  were  now 
endeavouring  to  take  up  mining  claims  on  the  ground 
where  the  houses  had  stood,  measuring  off"  the  regu- 
lar number  of  feet  allowed  to  each  man,  and  driving 
in  stakes  to  mark  out  their  claims  in  the  usual 

The  owners  of  the  houses,  however,  were  "on  hand," 


prepared  to  defend  their  rights  to  the  utmost.  Men 
who  had  just  seen  the  greater  part  of  their  property 
destroyed  were  not  likely  to  relinquish  very  readily 
what  little  still  remained  to  them  ;  and  now,  armed 
with  pistols,  guns,  and  knives, their  eyes  bloodshot  and 
their  faces  scorched  and  blackened,  they  were  tearing 
up  the  stakes  as  fast  as  the  miners  drove  them  in,  while 
they  declared  very  emphatically,  with  all  sorts  of 
oaths,  that  any  man  who  dared  to  put  a  pick  into  that 
ground  would  not  live  half  a  minute.  And  truly  a 
threat  from  such  men  was  one  not  to  be  disregarded. 

By  the  laws  of  the  mines,  the  diggings  under  a 
man's  house  are  his  property,  and  the  law  being  on 
their  side,  the  people  would  have  assisted  them  in 
defending  their  rights  ;  and  it  would  not  have  been 
absolutely  necessary  for  them  to  take  the  trouble  of 
shooting  the  miscreants,  who,  as  other  miners  began 
to  assemble  on  the  ground,  attracted  by  the  row, 
found  themselves  so  heartily  denounced  that  they 
thought  it  advisable  to  sneak  off  as  fast  as  possible. 

The  only  buildings  left  standing  after  the  fire  were 
a  Catholic  and  a  Wesleyan  church,  which  stood  on 
the  hill  a  little  off  the  street,  and  also  a  large  build- 
ing which  had  been  erected  for  a  ball-room,  or  some 
other  public  purpose.  The  proprietor  of  the  principal 
gambling  saloon,  as  soon  as  the  fire  broke  out  and  he 
saw  that  there  was  no  hope  for  his  house,  imme- 
diately made  arrangements  for  occupying  this  room, 
which,  from  its  isolated  position,  seemed  safe  enough; 
and  into  this  place  he  succeeded  in  moving  the  greater 


part  of  his  furniture,  mirrors,  chandeliers,  and  so  on. 
The  large  sign  in  front  of  the  house  was  also  removed 
to  the  new  quarters,  and  the  morning  after  the  fire 
— but  an  hour  or  two  after  the  town  had  been  burned 
down — the  new  saloon  was  in  full  operation.  The 
same  gamblers  were  sitting  at  the  same  tables,  deal- 
ing monte  and  faro  to  crowds  of  betters  ;  the  piano 
and  violin,  which  had  been  interrupted  by  the  fire, 
were  now  enlivening  the  people  in  their  distress; 
and  the  bar-keeper  was  as  composedly  as  ever  mixing 
cocktails  for  the  thirsty  throats  of  the  million. 

No  time  was  lost  by  the  rest  of  the  population. 
The  hot  and  smoky  ground  was  alive  with  men  clear- 
ing away  rubbish  ;  others  were  in  the  woods  cutting 
down  trees  and  getting  out  posts  and  brushwood,  or 
procuring  canvass  and  other  supplies  from  the  neigh- 
bouring camps. 

In  the  afternoon  the  Phcenix  began  to  rise.  Amid 
the  crowds  of  workers  on  the  long  blackened  tract  of 
ground  which  had  been  the  street,  posts  began  here 
and  there  to  spring  up ;  presently  cross  pieces  con- 
nected them ;  and  before  one  could  look  round,  the 
framework  was  filled  in  with  brushwood.  As  the 
ground  became  sufficiently  cool,  people  began  to 
move  down  their  goods  and  furniture  to  where  their 
houses  had  been,  where  those  who  were  not  yet 
erecting  either  a  canvass  or  a  brush  house,  built 
themselves  a  sort  of  pen  of  boxes  and  casks  of 

The  fire  originated  in  a  French  hotel,  and  among 

LOSS   OF   LIFE.  351 

the  ashes  of  this  house  were  found  the  remains  of  a 
human  body.  There  was  merely  the  head  and  trunk, 
the  limbs  being  entirely  burned  off.  It  looked  like 
a  charred  and  blackened  log  of  wood,  but  the  contour 
of  the  head  and  figure  was  preserved ;  and  it  would 
be  hard  to  conceive  anything  more  painfully  expres- 
sive of  intense  agony  than  the  few  lines  which  so 
powerfully  indicated  what  had  been  the  contorted 
position  of  the  head,  neck,  and  shoulders  of  the  un- 
fortunate man  when  he  ceased  to  move.  The  coroner 
held  an  inquest  as  soon  as  he  could  raise  a  jury 
out  of  the  crowd,  and  in  the  afternoon  the  body  was 
followed  to  the  grave  by  several  hundred  Frenchmen. 

This  was  the  only  death  from  the  fire  which  was 
discovered  at  the  time,  but  among  the  ruins  of  an 
adobe  house,  which  for  some  reason  was  not  rebuilt 
for  several  weeks  afterwards,  the  remains  of  another 
body  were  found,  and  were  never  identified. 

As  for  living  on  that  day,  one  had  to  do  the  best 
one  could  with  raw  materials.  Every  man  had  to 
attend  to  his  own  commissariat ;  and  when  it  was 
time  to  think  about  dinner,  I  went  foraging  with  a 
friend  among  the  promiscuous  heaps  of  merchandise, 
and  succeeded  in  getting  some  boxes  of  sardines  and 
a  bottle  of  wine.  We  were  also  fortunate  enough  to 
find  some  hard  bread,  so  we  did  not  fare  very  badly  ; 
and  at  night  we  lay  down  on  the  bare  hill-side,  and 
shared  that  vast  apartment  with  two  or  three  thou- 
sand fellow-lodgers.  Happy  was  the  man  who  had 
saved  his  blankets, — mine  had  gone  as  a  small  con- 

352  EFFECT   OF   THE   FTRE. 

tribution  to  the  general  conflagration  ;  but  though 
the  nights  were  agreeably  cool,  the  want  of  a  cover- 
ing, even  in  the  open  air,  was  not  a  very  great  hard- 

The  next  day  the  growth  of  the  town  was  still 
more  rapid.  All  sorts  of  temporary  contrivances 
were  erected  by  the  storekeepers  and  hotel-keepers 
on  the  sites  of  their  former  houses.  Every  man  was 
anxious  to  let  the  public  see  that  he  was  "  on  hand/' 
and  carrying  on  business  as  before.  Sign-painters 
had  been  hard  at  work  all  night,  and  now  huge  signs 
on  yard- wide  strips  of  cotton  cloth  lined  each  side  of 
the  street,  in  many  cases  being  merely  laid  upon  the 
ground,  where  as  yet  nothing  had  been  erected 
whereon  to  display  them.  These  canvass  and  brush 
houses  were  only  temporary.  Every  one,  as  soon  as 
lumber  could  be  procured,  set  to  work  to  build  a 
better  house  than  the  one  he  had  lost ;  and  within  a 
month  Sonora  was  in  all  respects  a  finer  town  than 
it  had  been  before  the  fire. 



ON  the  4th  of  July  I  went  over  to  Columbia,  four 
miles  distant  from  Sonora,  where  there  were  to  be 
great  doings,  as  the  latter  place  had  hardly  yet  re- 
covered from  the  effects  of  the  fire,  and  was  still  in  a 
state  of  transition.  So  Columbia,  which  was  nearly 
as  large  a  town,  was  to  be  the  place  of  celebration  for 
all  the  surrounding  country. 

Early  in  the  forenoon  an  immense  concourse  of 
people  had  assembled  to  take  part  in  the  proceedings, 
and  were  employing  themselves  in  the  mean  time  in 
drinking  success  to  the  American  Eagle,  in  the  nume- 
rous saloons  and  bar-rooms.  The  town  was  all  stars 
and  stripes  ;  they  fluttered  over  nearly  every  house, 
and  here  and  there  hung  suspended  across  the  street. 
The  day  was  celebrated  in  the  usual  way,  with  a  con- 
tinual discharge  of  revolvers,  and  a  vast  expenditure 
of  powder  in  squibs  and  crackers,  together  with  an 
unlimited  consumption  of  brandy.  But  this  was  only 
the  overflowing  of  individual  enthusiasm  ;  the  regu- 


lar  programme  was  a  procession,  a  prayer,  and  an 

The  procession  was  headed  by  about  half-a-dozen 
ladies  and  a  number  of  children — the  teachers  and 
pupils  of  a  school — who  sang  hymns  at  intervals,  when 
the  brass  band  which  accompanied  them  had  blown 
themselves  out  of  breath.  They  were  followed  by 
the  freemasons,  to  the  number  of  a  hundred  or  so,  in 
their  aprons  and  other  paraphernalia  ;  and  after  them 
came  a  company  of  about  the  same  number  of  horse- 
men, the  most  irregular  cavalry  one  could  imagine. 
Whoever  could  get  a  four-legged  animal  to  carry  him, 
joined  the  ranks ;  and  horses,  mules,  and  jackasses 
were  all  mixed  up  together.  Next  came  the  Hook 
and  Ladder  Company,  dragging  their  hooks  and 
ladders  after  them  in  regular  firemen  fashion;  and 
after  them  came  three  or  four  hundred  miners,  walk- 
ing two  and  two,  and  dragging,  in  like  manner,  by 
a  long  rope,  a  wheelbarrow,  in  which  were  placed  a 
pick  and  shovel,  a  frying-pan,  an  old  coffee-pot,  and 
a  tin  cup.  They  were  marshalled  by  half-a-dozen 
miners,  with  long-handled  shovels  over  their  shoulders, 
and  all  sorts  of  ribbons  tied  round  their  old  hats  to 
make  a  show. 

Another  mob  of  miners  brought  up  the  rear,  draw- 
ing after  them  a  long-torn  on  a  pair  of  wheels.  In  the 
torn  was  a  lot  of  "  dirt,"  which  one  man  stirred  up 
with  his  shovel,  as  if  he  were  washing,  while  a  num- 
ber of  others  alongside  were  hard  at  work  throwing 
in  imaginary  shovelfuls  of  dirt. 

THE   FOURTH    OF   JULY.  355 

The  idea  was  pretty  good  ;  but  to  understand  the 
meaning  of  this  gorgeous  pageant,  it  was  necessary  to 
be  familiar  with  mining  life.  The  pick  and  shovel  in 
the  wheelbarrow  were  the  emblems  of  the  miners' 
trade,  while  the  old  pots  and  pans  were  intended  to 
signify  the  very  rough  style  of  his  domestic  life,  par- 
ticularly of  his  cuisine ;  and  the  party  of  miners  at 
work  around  the  long-torn  was  a  representation  of  the 
way  in  which  the  wealth  of  the  country  is  wrested 
from  it  by  all  who  have  stout  hearts  and  willing 
hands,  or  stout  hands  and  willing  hearts — it  amounts 
to  much  the  same  thing. 

The  procession  paraded  the  streets  for  two  or 
three  hours,  and  proceeded  to  the  bull-ring,  where  the 
ceremonies  were  to  be  performed.  The  bull-ring 
here  was  neither  so  large  nor  so  well  got  up  as  the 
one  at  Sonora,  but  still  it  could  accommodate  a  very 
large  number  of  people.  As  the  miners  entered  the 
arena  with  their  wheelbarrow  and  long -torn,  they 
were  immensely  cheered  by  the  crowds  who  had 
already  taken  their  seats,  the  band  in  the  mean  time 
playing  "  Hail  Columbia  "  most  lustily. 

The  Declaration  of  Independence  was  read  by  a 
gentleman  in  a  white  neckcloth,  and  the  oration  was 
then  delivered  by  the  "  orator  of  the  day,"  who  was  a 
pale-faced,  chubby-cheeked  young  gentleman,  with 
very  white  and  extensive  shirt-collars.  He  indulged 
in  a  great  deal  of  bunkum  about  the  Pilgrim  Fathers, 
and  Plymouth  Kock,  the  "  Blarney-stone  of  America," 
as  the  Americans  call  it.  George  the  Third  and  his 


"red-coated  minions"  were  alluded  to  in  not  very 
flattering  terms  ;  and  after  having  exhausted  the 
past,  the  orator,  in  his  enthusiasm,  became  prophetic 
of  the  future.  He  fancied  he  saw  a  distant  vision  of 
a  great  republic  in  Ireland,  England  sunk  into  insig- 
nificance, and  all  the  rest  of  it. 

The  speech  was  full  of  American  and  local  phraseo- 
logy, but  the  richness  of  the  brogue  was  only  the 
more  perceptible  from  the  vain  attempt  to  disguise 
it.  Many  of  the  Americans  sitting  near  me  seemed 
to  think  that  the  orator  was  piling  up  the  agony  a 
little  too  high,  and  signified  their  disapprobation  by 
shouting  "  Gaas,  gaas  !  "  My  next  neighbour,  an  old 
Yankee,  informed  me  that,  in  his  opinion,  "them 
Pilgrim  Fathers  were  no  better  than  their  neigh- 
bours ;  they  left  England  because  they  could  not 
have  everything  their  own  way,  and  in  America 
were  more  intolerant  of  other  religions  than  any  one 
had  been  of  theirs  in  England.  I  know  all  about 
'em,"  he  said,  "for  I  come  from  right  whar  they 

In  the  middle  of  the  arena,  during  the  ceremonies, 
was  a  cage  containing  a  grizzly  bear,  who  had  fought 
and  killed  a  bull  by  torchlight  the  night  before. 
His  cage  was  boarded  up,  so  that  he  was  deprived 
of  the  pleasure  of  seeing  what  was  going  on,  but  he 
could  hear  all  that  was  said,  and  expressed  his  opinion 
from  time  to  time  by  grunting  and  growling  most 


After  the  oration,  the  company  dispersed  to  answer 
the  loud  summons  of  the  numerous  dinner-bells  and 
gongs,  and  in  the  afternoon  there  was  a  bull-fight, 
which  went  off  with  great  eclat. 

It  was  announced  in  the  bills  that  the  celebrated 
lady  bull-fighter,  the  Senorita  Eamona  Perez,  would 
despatch  a  bull  with  the  sword.  This  celebrated 
senorita,  however,  turned  out  to  be  only  the  chief 
matador,  who  entered  the  arena  very  well  got  up 
as  a  woman,  with  the  slight  exception  of  a  very 
fine  pair  of  mustaches,  which  he  had  not  thought  it 
worth  while  to  sacrifice.  He  had  a  fan  in  his  hand, 
with  which  he  half  concealed  his  face,  as  if  from 
modesty,  as  he  curtseyed  to  the  audience,  who  re- 
ceived him  with  shouts  of  laughter — mixed  with 
hisses  and  curses,  however,  for  there  were  some 
who  had  been  true  believers  in  the  senorita  ;  but  the 
infidels  were  the  majority,  and,  thinking  it  a  good 
joke,  enjoyed  it  accordingly.  The  senorita  played 
with  the  bull  for  some  little  time  with  the  utmost 
audacity,  and  with  a  great  deal  of  feminine  grace, 
whisking  her  petticoats  in  the  bull's  face  with  one 
hand,  whilst  she  smoothed  down  her  hair  with  the 
other.  At  last  the  sword  was  handed  to  her,  which 
she  received  very  gingerly,  also  a  red  flag ;  and  after 
dodging  a  few  passes  from  the  bull,  she  put  the  sword 
most  gracefully  into  the  back  of  his  neck,  and,  hardly 
condescending  to  wait  to  see  whether  she  had  killed 
or  not,  she  dropped  both  sword  and  flag,  and  ran 


out  of  the  arena,  curtseying,  and  kissing  her  hand  to 
the  spectators,  after  the  manner  of  a  ballet-dancer 
leaving  the  stage. 

It  was  a  pity  the  fellow  had  not  shaved  off  his 
mustache,  as  otherwise  his  acting  was  so  good  that 
one  might  have  deluded  oneself  with  the  belief  that 
it  was  really  the  celebrated  senorita  herself  who  was 
risking  her  precious  life  by  such  a  very  ladylike 

I  had  heard  from  many  persons  of  two  natural 
bridges  on  a  small  river  called  Coyote  Creek,  some 
twelve  miles  off;  and  as  they  were  represented  as 
being  very  curious  and  beautiful  objects,  I  determined 
to  pay  them  a  visit.  Accordingly,  returning  to 
M'Lean's  Ferry  on  the  Stanislaus,  at  the  point  where 
Coyote  Creek  joins  that  river,  I  travelled  up  the 
Creek  for  some  miles,  clambering  over  rocks  and 
winding  round  steep  overhanging  banks,  by  a  trail 
so  little  used  that  it  was  hardly  discernible.  I  was 
amply  repaid  for  my  trouble,  however,  when,  after 
an  hour  or  two  of  hard  climbing  in  the  roasting  hot 
sun,  I  at  last  reached  the  bridges,  and  found  them 
much  more  beautiful  natural  curiosities  than  I  had 
imagined  them  to  be. 

Having  never  been  able  to  get  any  very  intelligible 
account  of  what  they  really  were,  I  had  supposed 
that  some  large  rocks  rolling  down  the  mountain  had 
got  jammed  over  the  creek,  by  the  steepness  of  the 
rocky  banks  on  each  side,  which  I  fancied  would  be 
a  very  easy  mode  of  building  a  natural  bridge.  My 

ON   COYOTE    CREEK.  359 

idea,  however,  was  very  far  from  the  reality.  In 
fact,  bridges  was  an  inappropriate  name ;  they  should 
rather  have  been  called  caves  or  tunnels.  How  they 
were  formed  is  a  question  for  geologists ;  but  their 
appearance  gave  the  idea  that  there  had  been  a  sort 
of  landslip,  which  blocked  up  the  bed  of  the  creek 
for  a  distance  of  two  or  three  hundred  feet,  and  to 
the  height  of  fifty  or  sixty  above  the  bed  of  the 
stream.  They  were  about  a  quarter  of  a  mile  apart, 
and  their  surface  was,  like  that  of  the  hills,  perfectly 
smooth,  and  covered  with  grass  and  flowers.  The 
interiors  were  somewhat  the  same  style  of  place, 
but  the  upper  one  was  the  larger  and  more  curious 
of  the  two.  The  faces  of  the  tunnel  were  perpen- 
dicular, presenting  an  entrance  like  a  church  door, 
about  twelve  feet  high,  surrounded  by  huge  stony 
fungus-like  excrescences,  of  a  dark  purple-and-green 
colour.  The  waters  of  the  creek  flowed  in  here,  and 
occupied  all  the  width  of  the  entrance.  They  were 
only  a  few  inches  in  depth,  and  gave  a  perfect  reflec- 
tion of  the  whole  of  the  interior,  which  was  a  lofty 
chamber  some  hundred  feet  in  length,  the  straight 
sides  of  which  met  at  the  top  in  the  form  of  a 
Gothic  arch.  At  the  further  end  was  a  vista  of 
similarly  arched  small  passages,  branching  off  into 
darkness.  The  walls  were  deeply  carved  into  pillars 
and  grotesque  forms,  in  which  one  could  trace  all 
manner  of  fanciful  resemblances ;  while  at  the  base  of 
some  of  the  columns  were  most  symmetrically-formed 
projections,  many  of  which  might  be  taken  for  fonts, 


the  top  of  them  being  a  circular  basin  containing 
water.  These  projections  were  of  stone,  and  had  the 
appearance  of  having  congealed  suddenly  while  in  a 
boiling  state.  There  was  a  beautiful  regularity  in 
the  roughness  of  their  surface,  some  of  the  rounded 
forms  being  deeply  carved  with  circular  lines,  similar 
to  the  engine-turning  on  the  back  of  a  watch,  and 
others  being  rippled  like  a  shirt  of  mail,  the  rippling 
getting  gradually  and  regularly  finer,  till  at  the  top 
the  surface  was  hardly  more  rough  than  that  of  a 
file.  The  walls  and  roof  seemed  to  have  been 
smothered  over  with  some  stuff  which  had  hardened 
into  a  sort  of  cement,  presenting  a  polished  surface 
of  a  bright  cream-colour,  tinged  here  and  there  with 
pink  and  pale-green.  The  entrance  was  sufficiently 
large  to  light  up  the  whole  place,  which,  from  its 
general  outline,  gave  somewhat  the  idea  of  a  church ; 
for,  besides  the  pillars,  with  their  flowery  ornaments, 
the  Gothic  arches  and  the  fonts,  there  was  at  one 
side,  near  the  entrance,  one  of  these  stone  excrescences 
much  larger  than  the  others,  and  which  would  have 
passed  for  a  pulpit,  overhung  as  it  was  by  a 
projection  of  a  similar  nature,  spreading  out  from 
the  wall  several  feet  above  it. 

The  sides  of  the  arches  forming  the  roof  did  not 
quite  meet  at  the  top,  but  looked  like  the  crests  of 
two  immense  foaming  waves,  between  which  were 
seen  the  extremities  of  numbers  of  pendants  of  a  like 
flowery  form. 

There  was  nothing  rough  or  uncertain  about  the 

CAVES.  361 

place  ;  every  part  seemed  as  if  it  were  elaborately 
finished,  and  in  strict  harmony  with  the  whole  ;  and 
as  the  rays  of  the  setting  sun  fell  on  the  water  within 
the  entrance,  and  reflected  a  subdued  light  over  the 
brilliant  hues  of  the  interior,  it  looked  like  a  gorgeous 
temple,  which  no  art  could  improve,  and  such  as  no 
human  imagination  could  have  designed.  At  the 
other  end  of  the  tunnel  the  water  emerged  from  a 
much  smaller  cave,  and  which  was  so  low  as  not  to 
admit  of  a  man  crawling  in. 

The  caves,  at  each  end  of  the  other  tunnel,  were 
also  very  small,  though  the  architecture  was  of  the 
same  flowery  style.  The  faces  of  it,  however,  were 
extremely  beautiful.  To  the  height  of  fifty  or  sixty 
feet  they  presented  a  succession  of  irregular  overhang- 
ing projections,  bulging  out  like  immense  mushrooms, 
of  which  the  prevailing  hue  was  a  delicate  pink, 
with  occasional  patches  of  bright  green. 

In  any  part  of  the  Old  World  such  a  place  would 
be  the  object  of  a  pilgrimage ;  and  even  where  it 
was,  it  attracted  many  visitors,  numbers  of  whom 
had,  according  to  the  established  custom  of  snobhood, 
acknowledged  their  own  insignificance,  and  had 
sought  a  little  immortality  for  their  wretched  names 
by  scratching  them  on  a  large  smooth  surface  by  the 
side  of  the  entrance  to  the  cave. 

While  I  was  there,  an  old  Yankee  miner  came  to 
see  the  place.  He  paid  a  very  hurried  visit — he 
had  not  even  time  to  scratch  his  initials  ;  but  he 
was  enthusiastic  in  his  admiration  of  this  beautiful 

362  A    YANKEE   IDEA. 

object  of  nature,  which,  however,  he  thought  was 
quite  thrown  away  in  such  an  out-of-the-way  part 
of  creation.  It  distressed  him  to  think  that  such  a 
valuable  piece  of  property  could  not  be  turned  to 
any  profitable  account.  "  Now,"  said  he,  "  if  I  had 
this  here  thing  jist  about  ten  miles  from  New  York 
city,  Fd  show  it  to  the  folks  at  twenty-five  cents 
a-head,  and  make  an  everlastin'  pile  of  money  out 
of  it." 



THE  only  miners  on  the  Creek  were  Frenchmen,  two 
or  three  of  whom  lived  in  a  very  neat  log-cabin, 
close  to  the  tunnel.  Behind  it  was  a  small  kitchen- 
garden  in  a  high  state  of  cultivation,  and  alongside 
was  a  very  diminutive  fac-simile  of  the  cabin  itself, 
which  was  tenanted  by  a  knowing -looking  little 

The  whole  establishment  had  a  finished  and  civil- 
ised air  about  it,  and  was  got  up  with  a  regard  to 
appearances  which  was  quite  unusual. 

But  of  all  the  men  of  different  nations  in  the  mines, 
the  French  were  most  decidedly  those  who,  judging 
from  their  domestic  life,  appeared  to  be  most  at  home. 
Not  that  they  were  a  bit  better  than  others  able  to 
stand  the  hard  work  and  exposure  and  privations,  but 
about  all  their  huts  and  cabins,  however  roughly 
constructed  they  might  be,  there  was  something  in 
the  minor  details  which  bespoke  more  permanency 


than  was  suggested  by  the  generality  of  the  rude 
abodes  of  the  miners.  It  is  very  certain  that,  with- 
out really  expending  more  time  or  labour,  or  even 
taking  more  trouble  than  other  men  about  their 
domestic  arrangements,  they  did  "  fix  things  up " 
with  such  a  degree  of  taste,  and  with  so  much  method 
about  everything,  as  to  give  the  idea  that  their  life 
of  toil  was  mitigated  by  more  than  a  usual  share  of 
ease  and  comfort. 

A  backwoodsman  from  the  Western  States  is  in 
some  respects  a  good  sort  of  fellow  to  be  with  in  the 
mountains,  especially  where  there  are  hostile  Indians 
about,  for  he  knows  their  ways,  and  can  teach  them 
manners  with  his  five-foot-barrel  rifle  when  there  is 
occasion  for  it ;  he  can  also  put  up  a  log-cabin  in 
no  time,  and  is  of  course  up  to  all  the  dodges  of  border 
life  ;  but  this  is  his  normal  condition,  and  he  can- 
not be  expected  to  appreciate  so  much  as  others,  or  to 
be  so  apt  at  introducing,  all  the  little  luxuries  of  a 
more  civilised  existence  of  which  he  has  no  know- 

An  old  sailor  is  a  useful  man  in  the  mines,  when 
you  can  keep  brandy  out  of  his  reach  ;  and,  to  do  him 
justice,  there  is  method  in  his  manner  of  drinking. 
He  lives  under  the  impression  that  all  human  exist- 
ence should  be  subdivided,  as  at  sea,  into  watches ;  for 
when  ashore  he  only  lengthens  their  duration,  and 
takes  his  watch  below  as  a  regular  matter  of  duty, 
keeping  below  as  long  as  the  grog  lasts  ;  after  which 
he  comes  on  deck  again,  quite  refreshed,  and  remains 


as  sober  as  a  judge  for  two  or  three  weeks.  His 
useful  qualities,  however,  consist  in  the  extraordi- 
nary delight  he  takes  in  patching  and  mending,  and 
tinkering  up  whatever  stands  in  need  of  such  service. 
He  is  great  at  sweeping  and  scrubbing,  and  keeping 
things  clean  generally,  and,  besides,  knows  something 
of  tailoring,  shoemaking,  carpentering  ;  in  fact,  he 
can  turn  his  hand  to  anything,  and  generally  does  it 
artistically,  while  his  resources  are  endless,  for  he 
has  a  peculiar  genius  for  making  one  thing  serve  the 
purpose  of  another,  and  is  never  at  a  loss  for  a 

But  whatever  the  specialties  and  accomplishments 
of  individuals  or  of  classes,  the  French,  as  a  nation, 
were  excelled  by  no  other  in  the  practice  of  the  art 
of  making  themselves  personally  comfortable.  They 
generally  located  themselves  in  considerable  numbers, 
forming  small  communities  of  their  own,  and  always 
appeared  to  be  jolly,  and  enjoying  themselves.  They 
worked  hard  enough  while  they  were  at  it,  but  in 
their  intervals  of  leisure  they  gave  themselves  up  to 
what  seemed  at  least  to  be  a  more  unqualified  enjoy- 
ment of  the  pleasures  of  the  moment  than  other 
miners,  who  never  entirely  laid  aside  the  earnest  and 
careworn  look  of  the  restless  gold-hunter. 

This  enviable  faculty,  which  the  Frenchmen  ap- 
peared to  possess  in  such  a  high  degree,  of  bringing 
somewhat  of  the  comforts  of  civilised  life  along  with 
them,  was  no  doubt  a  great  advantage  ;  but  whether 
it  operated  favourably  or  otherwise  towards  their 


general  success  as  miners,  is  not  so  certain.  One 
would  naturally  suppose  that  the  more  thoroughly  a 
man  rested  from  mental  or  bodily  labour,  the  more 
able  would  he  be  for  renewed  exertions  ;  but  at  the 
same  time,  a  man  whose  mind  is  entirely  engrossed 
and  preoccupied  with  one  idea,  is  likely  to  attain  his 
end  before  the  man  who  only  devotes  himself  to  the 
pursuit  of  that  object  at  stated  intervals. 

However  that  may  be,  there  is  no  question  that, 
as  miners,  the  French  were  far  excelled  by  the 
Americans  and  by  the  English — for  they  are  in- 
separably mixed  up  together — there  are  thorough- 
going Americans  who,  only  a  year  or  two  ago,  were 
her  Majesty's  most  faithful  subjects,  and  who  still  in 
their  hearts  cherish  the  recollection.  The  Frenchmen, 
perhaps,  possessed  industry  and  energy  enough,  if 
they  had  had  a  more  practical  genius  to  direct  it ; 
but  in  proportion  to  their  numbers,  they  did  not 
bear  a  sufficiently  conspicuous  part,  either  in  mining 
operations,  or  in  those  branches  of  industry  which 
have  for  their  object  the  converting  of  the  natural 
advantages  of  a  country  to  the  service  of  man.  The 
direction  of  their  energies  was  more  towards  the 
supplying  of  those  wants  which  presuppose  the  ex- 
istence of  a  sufficiently  wealthy  and  luxurious  class 
of  consumers,  than  towards  seizing  on  such  resources 
of  the  country  as  offered  them  the  means  of  enriching 
themselves  in  a  manner  less  immediately  dependent 
on  their  neighbours. 

Even  as  miners,  they  for  the  most  part  congre- 


gated  round  large  camps,  and  were  never  engaged  in 
the  same  daring  undertakings  as  the  Americans — 
such  as  lifting  half  a  mile  of  a  large  river  from  its 
bed,  or  trenching  for  miles  the  sides  of  steep  moun- 
tains, and  building  lofty  viaducts  supported  on  scaf- 
folding which,  from  its  height,  looked  like  a  spider's 
web  ;  while  the  only  pursuits  they  engaged  in,  ex- 
cept mining,  were  the  keeping  of  restaurants,  esta- 
minets,  cafes  chantants,  billiard  -  rooms,  and  such 
places,  ministering  more  to  the  pleasures  than  to  the 
necessities  of  man  ;  and  not  in  any  way  adding  to 
the  wealth  of  the  country,  by  rendering  its  resources 
more  available. 

Comparing  the  men  of  different  nations,  the  pur- 
suits they  were  engaged  in,  and  the  ends  they  had 
accomplished,  one  could  not  help  being  impressed 
with  the  idea,  that  if  the  mines  had  been  peopled 
entirely  by  Frenchmen — if  all  the  productive  re- 
sources of  the  country  had  been  in  their  hands — it 
would  yet  have  been  many  years  before  they  would 
have  raised  California  to  the  rank  and  position  of 
wealth  and  importance  which  she  now  holds. 

And  it  is  quite  fair  to  draw  a  general  conclusion 
regarding  them,  based  upon  such  evidences  of  their 
capabilities  as  they  afforded  in  California  ;  for  not  only 
did  they  form  a  very  considerable  proportion  of  the 
population,  but,  as  among  people  of  other  nations, 
there  were  also  among  them  men  of  all  classes. 

In  many  respects  they  were  a  most  valuable 
addition  to  the  population  of  the  country,  especially 


in  the  cities,  but  as  colonisers  and  subjugators  of  a 
new  country,  their  inefficiency  was  very  apparent. 
They  appeared  to  want  that  daring  and  independent 
spirit  of  individual  self-reliance  which  impels  an 
American  or  Englishman  to  disregard  all  counsel  and 
companionship,  and  to  enter  alone  into  the  wildest 
enterprise,  so  long  as  he  himself  thinks  it  feasible  ; 
or,  disengaging  himself  for  the  time  being  from  all 
communication  with  his  fellow-men,  to  plunge  into 
the  wilderness,  and  there  to  labour  steadily,  uncheered 
by  any  passing  pleasure,  and  with  nothing  to  sustain 
him  in  his  determination  but  his  own  confidence  in 
his  ability  ultimately  to  attain  his  object. 

One  scarcely  ever  met  a  Frenchman  travelling 
alone  in  search  of  diggings  ;  whereas  the  Ameri- 
cans and  English  whom  one  encountered  were  nearly 
always  solitary  individuals,  "  on  their  own  hook," 
going  to  some  distant  part  where  they  had  heard  the 
diggings  were  good,  but  at  the  same  time  ready  to 
stop  anywhere,  or  to  change  their  destination  accord- 
ing to  circumstances. 

The  Frenchmen  were  too  gregarious  ;  they  were 
either  found  in  large  numbers,  or  not  at  all.  They 
did  not  travel  about  much,  and,  when  they  did,  were 
in  parties  of  half-a-dozen.  While  Americans  would 
travel  hundreds  of  miles  to  reach  a  place  which  they 
believed  to  be  rich,  the  great  object  of  the  French- 
men, in  their  choice  of  a  location,  seemed  to  be,  to 
be  near  where  a  number  of  their  countrymen  were 
already  settled. 


But  though  they  were  so  fond  of  each  other's 
company,  they  did  not  seem  to  possess  that  cohesive- 
ness  and  mutual  confidence  necessary  for  the  successful 
prosecution  of  a  joint  undertaking.  Many  kinds  of 
diggings  could  only  be  worked  to  advantage  by  com- 
panies of  fifteen  or  twenty  men,  but  Frenchmen  were 
never  seen  attempting  such  a  combination.  Occa- 
sionally half-a-dozen  or  so  worked  together,  but  even 
then  the  chances  were  that  they  squabbled  among 
themselves,  and  broke  up  before  they  had  got  their 
claim  into  working  order,  and  so  lost  their  labour  from 
their  inability  to  keep  united  in  one  plan  of  operations. 

In  this  respect  the  Americans  had  a  very  great 
advantage,  for,  though  strongly  imbued  with  the 
spirit  of  individual  independence,  they  are  certainly 
of  all  people  in  the  world  the  most  prompt  to  organise 
and  combine  to  carry  out  a  common  object.  They 
are  trained  to  it  from  their  youth  in  their  innumer- 
able, and  to  a  foreigner  unintelligible,  caucus-meet- 
ings, committees,  conventions,  and  so  forth,  by  means 
of  which  they  bring  about  the  election  of  every 
officer  in  the  State,  from  the  President  down  to  the 
policeman ;  while  the  fact  of  every  man  belonging  to  a 
fire  company,  a  militia  company,  or  something  of  that 
sort,  while  it  increases  their  idea  of  individual  import- 
ance, and  impresses  upon  them  the  force  of  combined 
action,  accustoms  them  also  to  the  duty  of  choosing 
their  own  leaders,  and  to  the  necessity  of  afterwards 
recognising  them  as  such  by  implicit  obedience. 
Certain  it  is  that,  though  the  companies  of  Ameri- 
2  A 


can  miners  were  frequently  composed  of  what  seemed 
to  be  most  incongruous  materials — rough  uneducated 
men,  and  men  of  refinement  and  education — yet  they 
worked  together  as  harmoniously  in  carrying  out 
difficult  mining  and  engineering  operations,  under 
the  directions  of  their  "  captain,"  as  if  they  had 
been  a  gang  of  day-labourers  who  had  no  right 
to  interfere  as  to  the  way  in  which  the  work  should 
be  conducted. 

The  captain  was  one  of  their  number,  chosen  for  his 
supposed  ability  to  carry  out  the  work ;  but  if  they 
were  not  satisfied  with  his  performances,  it  was  a 
very  simple  matter  to  call  a  meeting,  at  which  the 
business  of  deposing,  or  accepting  the  resignation  of 
the  incompetent  officer,  and  appointing  a  successor, 
was  put  through  with  all  the  order  and  formality 
which  accompanies  the  election  of  a  president  of  any 
public  body.  Those  who  would  not  submit  to  the 
decision  of  the  majority  might  sell  out,  but  the  prose- 
cution of  a  work  undertaken  was  never  abandoned  or 
in  any  way  retarded  by  the  discordance  of  opinion  on 
the  part  of  the  different  members  of  the  company. 

Individuals  could  not  work  alone  to  any  advan- 
tage. All  mining  operations  were  carried  on  by 
parties  of  men,  varying  in  number  according  to  the 
nature  of  their  diggings  ;  and  the  strange  assortment 
of  dissimilar  characters  occasionally  to  be  found  thus 
brought  into  close  relationship  was  but  a  type  of  the 
general  state  of  society,  which  was  such  as  completely 
to  realise  the  idea  of  perfect  social  equality. 


There  are  occasions  on  which,  among  small  com- 
munities, an  overwhelming  emotion,  common  to  all, 
may  obliterate  all  feeling  of  relative  superiority  ;  but 
the  history  of  the  world  can  show  no  such  picture  of 
human  nature  upon  the  same  scale  as  was  to  be  seen 
in  the  mines,  where,  among  a  population  of  hundreds 
of  thousands  of  men,  from  all  parts  of  the  world,  and 
from  every  order  of  society,  no  individual  or  class  was 
accounted  superior  to  another. 

The  cause  of  such  a  state  of  things  was  one  which 
would  tend  to  produce  the  same  result  elsewhere.  It 
consisted  in  this,  that  each  man  enjoyed  the  capa- 
bility of  making  as  much  money  as  his  neighbour;  for 
hard  labour,  which  any  man  could  accomplish  with 
legs  and  arms,  without  much  assistance  from  his 
head,  was  as  remunerative  as  any  other  occupation — 
consequently,  all  men  indiscriminately  were  found  so 
employing  themselves,  and  mining  or  any  other  kind 
of  labour  was  considered  as  dignified  and  as  honour- 
able a  pursuit  as  any  other. 

In  fact,  so  paramount  was  this  idea,  that  in  some 
men  it  created  an  impression  that  not  to  labour  was 
degrading — that  those  who  did  not  live  by  actual 
physical  toil  were  men  who  did  not  come  up  to  the 
scratch — who  rather  shirked  the  common  lot  of  all, 
"  man's  original  inheritance,  that  he  should  sweat  for 
his  poor  pittance/'  I  recollect  once  arriving  in  the 
middle  of  the  night  in  San  Francisco,  when  it  was 
not  by  any  means  the  place  it  now  is,  and  finding  all 
the  hotels  full,  I  was  compelled  to  take  refuge  in  an 


establishment  which  offered  no  other  accommodation 
to  the  public  than  a  lot  of  beds — half-a-dozen  in  a 
room.  When  I  was  paying  my  dollar  in  the  morning 
for  having  enjoyed  the  privilege  of  sleeping  on  one  of 
these  concerns,  an  old  miner  was  doing  the  same. 
He  had  no  coin,  but  weighed  out  an  ounce  of  dust, 
and  while  getting  his  change  he  seemed  to  be  study- 
ing the  keeper  of  the  house,  as  a  novel  and  interest- 
ing specimen  of  human  nature.  The  result  showed 
itself  in  an  expression  of  supreme  contempt  on  his 
worn  and  sunburnt  features,  as  he  addressed  the 
object  of  his  contemplation  :  "  Say  now,  stranger,  do 
you  donothin'  else  but  just  sit  thar  and  take  a  dollar 
from  every  man  that  sleeps  on  them  beds  1 " 

"  Yes,  that's  my  business,"  replied  the  man. 

"  Well,  then,"  said  the  miner  after  a  little  further 
reflection,  "it's  a  d — d  mean  way  of  making  your 
living,  that's  all  I  can  say." 

This  idea  was  natural  enough  to  the  man  who  so 
honestly  expressed  it,  but  it  was  an  exaggeration  of 
that  which  prevailed  in  the  mines,  for  no  occupation 
gave  any  man  a  superiority  over  his  neighbours ; 
there  was  no  social  scale  in  which  different  classes 
held  different  positions,  and  the  only  way  in  which  a 
man  could  distinguish  himself  from  others  was  by 
what  he  actually  had  in  him,  by  his  own  personal 
qualities,  and  by  the  use  he  could  make  of  them  ; 
and  any  man's  intrinsic  merit  it  was  not  difficult  to 
discover ;  for  it  was  not  as  in  countries  where  the  whole 
population  is  divided  into  classes,  and  where  indivi- 

WANT   OF    POLISH.  373 

duals  from  widely  different  stations  are,  when  thrown 
together,  prevented,  by  a  degree  of  restraint  and 
hypocrisy  on  both  sides,  from  exhibiting  themselves 
exactly  as  they  would  to  their  ordinary  associates. 
Here  no  such  obstacle  existed  to  the  most  unreserved 
intercourse  ;  the  habitual  veil  of  imposition  and 
humbug,  under  which  men  usually  disguise  them- 
selves from  the  rest  of  the  world,  was  thrown  aside  as 
a  useless  inconvenience.  They  took  no  trouble  to  con- 
ceal what  passed  within  them,  but  showed  themselves 
as  they  were,  for  better  or  for  worse  as  the  case  might 
be — sometimes,  no  doubt,  very  much  for  the  worse;  but 
in  most  instances  first  impressions  were  not  so  favour- 
able as  those  formed  upon  further  acquaintance. 

Society — so  to  call  it — certainly  wanted  that 
superfine  polish  which  gives  only  a  cold  reflection  of 
what  is  offered  to  it.  There  was  no  pinchbeck  or 
Brummagem  ware ;  every  man  was  a  genuine  solid 
article,  whether  gold,  silver,  or  copper :  he  was  the 
same  sterling  metal  all  the  way  through  which  he 
was  on  the  surface ;  and  the  generous  frankness  and 
hearty  goodwill  which,  however  roughly  expressed, 
were  the  prevailing  characteristics  of  the  miners,  were 
the  more  grateful  to  the  feelings,  as  one  knew  that  no 
secondary  or  personal  motive  sneaked  beneath  them. 

It  would  be  hard  to  say  what  particular  class  of  men 
was  the  most  numerous  in  the  mines,  because  few 
retained  any  distinguishing  characteristic  to  denote 
their  former  position. 

The  backwoodsman  and  the  small  farmer  from  the 


Western  States,  who  formed  a  very  large  proportion 
of  the  people,  could  be  easily  recognised  by  many 
peculiarities.  The  educated  man,  who  had  lived  and 
moved  among  gentlemen,  was  also  to  be  detected 
under  any  disguise  ;  but  the  great  mass  of  the  people 
were  men  who,  in  their  appearance  and  manners, 
afforded  little  clue  to  their  antecedents. 

From  the  mode  of  life  and  the  style  of  dress,  men 
became  very  much  assimilated  in  outward  appear- 
ance, and  acquired  also  a  certain  individuality  of 
manner,  which  was  more  characteristic  of  what  they 
now  were — of  the  independent  gold-hunter — than  of 
any  other  order  of  mankind. 

It  was  easy  enough,  if  one  had  any  curiosity  on 
the  subject,  to  learn  something  of  a  man's  history, 
for  there  was  little  reserve  used  in  alluding  to  it. 
What  a  man  had  been,  mattered  as  little  to  him  as  it 
did  to  any  one  else  ;  and  it  was  refreshing  to  find,  as 
was  generally  the  case,  that  one's  preconceived  ideas 
of  a  man  were  so  utterly  at  variance  with  the  truth. 

Among  such  a  motley  crowd  one  could  select  his 
own  associates,  but  the  best-informed,  the  most  enter- 
taining, and  those  in  many  respects  the  most  desir- 
able, were  not  always  those  whose  company  one 
could  have  enjoyed  where  the  inseparable  barriers  of 
class  are  erected  ; — and  it  is  difficult  to  believe  that 
any  one,  after  circulating  much  among  the  different 
types  of  mankind  to  be  found  in  the  mines,  should 
not  have  a  higher  respect  than  before  for  the  various 
classes  which  they  represented. 



AFTER  a  month  or  two  spent  on  the  Tuolumne  and 
Merced  rivers,  and  in  the  more  sparsely  populated 
section  of  country  lying  still  farther  south,  I  returned 
to  Sonora,  on  my  way  to  San  Francisco. 

Here  I  took  the  stage  for  Stockton — a  large  open 
waggon,  drawn  by  five  horses,  three  leaders  abreast. 
We  were  well  ballasted  with  about  a  dozen  passengers, 
the  most  amusing  of  whom  was  a  hard  dried-up  man, 
dressed  in  a  greasy  old  leathern  hunting-shirt,  and 
inexpressibles  to  match,  all  covered  with  tags  and 
fringes,  and  clasping  in  his  hand  a  long  rifle,  which 
had  probably  been  his  bosom-friend  all  his  life.  He 
took  an  early  opportunity  of  informing  us  all  that  he 
was  from  Arkansas ;  that  he  came  to  "  Calaforny " 
across  the  plains,  and  having  been  successful  in  the 
diggings,  he  was  now  on  his  way  home.  He  was  like 


a  schoolboy  going  home  for  the  holidays,  so  delighted 
was  he  with  the  prospect  before  him.  It  seemed  to 
surprise  him  very  much  that  all  the  rest  of  the  party 
were  not  also  bound  for  Arkansas,  and  he  evidently 
looked  upon  us,  in  consequence,  with  a  degree  of 
compassionate  interest,  as  much  less  fortunate  mortals, 
and  very  much  to  be  pitied. 

We  started  at  four  o'clock  in  the  morning,  so  as  to 
accomplish  the  sixty  or  seventy  miles  to  Stockton 
before  the  departure  of  the  San  Francisco  steamer. 
The  first  ten  or  twelve  miles  of  our  journey  were 
consequently  performed  in  the  dark,  but  that  did  not 
affect  our  speed  ;  the  road  was  good,  and  it  was  only 
in  crossing  the  hollows  between  the  hills  that  the 
navigation  was  difficult ;  for  in  such  places  the 
diggings  had  frequently  encroached  so  much  on  the 
road  as  to  leave  only  sufficient  space  for  a  waggon  to 
pass  between  the  miners'  excavations. 

We  drove  about  thirty  miles  before  we  were  quite 
out  of  the  mining  regions.  The  country,  however, 
became  gradually  less  mountainous,  and  more  suitable 
for  cultivation,  and  every  half-mile  or  so  we  passed 
a  house  by  the  roadside,  with  ploughed  fields  around 
it,  and  whose  occupant  combined  farming  with 
tavern -keeping.  This  was  all  very  pleasant  travel- 
ling, but  the  most  wretched  part  of  the  journey  was 
when  we  reached  the  plains.  The  earth  was  scorched 
and  baked,  the  heat  was  more  oppressive  than  in  the 
mountains,  and  for  about  thirty  miles  we  moved 


along  enveloped  in  a  cloud  of  dust,  which  soaked 
into  one's  clothes  and  hair  and  skin  as  if  it  had 
been  a  liquid  substance.  On  our  arrival  in  Stock- 
ton we  were  of  a  uniform  colour  all  over — all 
identity  of  person  was  lost  as  much  as  in  a  party  of 
chimney-sweeps;  but  fortunately  the  steamer  did  not 
start  for  an  hour,  so  I  had  time  to  take  a  bath,  and 
make  myself  look  somewhat  like  a  white  man  before 
going  on  board. 

The  Stockton  steamboats,  though  not  so  large  as 
those  which  run  to  Sacramento,  were  not  inferior  in 
speed.  We  steamed  down  the  San  Joaquin  at  about 
twenty  miles  an  hour,  and  reached  San  Francisco  at 
ten  o'clock  at  night. 

San  Francisco  retained  now  but  little  resemblance 
to  what  it  had  been  in  its  earlier  days.  The  same 
extraordinary  contrasts  and  incongruities  were  not  to 
be  seen  either  in  the  people  or  in  the  appearance  of 
the  streets.  Men  had  settled  down  into  their  proper 
places;  the  various  branches  of  business  and  trade  had 
worked  for  themselves  their  own  distinct  channels; 
and  the  general  style  of  the  place  was  very  much  the 
same  as  that  of  any  flourishing  commercial  city. 

It  had  increased  immensely  in  extent,  and  its 
growth  had  been  in  all  directions.  The  barren  sand- 
hills which  surrounded  the  city  had  been  graded 
down  to  an  even  slope,  and  were  covered  with  streets 
of  well-built  houses,  and  skirted  by  populous  suburbs. 
Four  or  five  wide  streets,  more  than  a  mile  in  length, 


built  up  with  solid  and  uniform  brick  warehouses, 
stretched  all  along  in  front  of  the  city,  upon  ground 
which  had  been  reclaimed  from  the  bay ;  and  between 
these  and  the  upper  part  of  the  city  was  the  region 
of  fashionable  shops  and  hotels,  banks  and  other 
public  offices. 

The  large  fleet  of  ships  which  for  a  long  time,  while 
seamen's  wages  were  exorbitantly  high,  lay  idly  in  the 
harbour,  was  now  dispersed,  and  all  the  shipping 
actually  engaged  in  discharging  cargo  found  accom- 
modation alongside  of  the  numerous  piers  which  had 
been  built  out  for  nearly  a  mile  into  the  bay.  All 
manner  of  trades  and  manufactures  were  flourishing 
as  in  a  place  a  hundred  years  old.  Omnibuses  plied 
upon  the  principal  thoroughfares,  and  numbers  of 
small  steamboats  ran  to  the  watering-places  which 
had  sprung  up  on  the  opposite  shore. 

The  style  of  life  had  improved  with  the  growth  of 
the  city,  and  with  the  increased  facilities  of  procur- 
ing servants  and  house-room.  The  ordinary  conven- 
tionalities of  life  were  observed,  and  public  opinion 
exercised  its  wonted  control  over  men's  conduct ;  for 
the  female  part  of  creation  was  so  numerously  repre- 
sented, that  births  and  marriages  occupied  a  space 
in  the  daily  papers  larger  than  they  require  in  many 
more  populous  places. 

Female  influence  was  particularly  observable  in  the 
great  attention  men  paid  to  their  outward  appearance. 
There  was  but  little  of  the  independent  taste  and 


individuality  in  dress  of  other  days ;  all  had  succumbed 
to  the  sway  of  the  goddess  of  fashion,  and  the  usual 
style  of  gentleman's  dress  was  even  more  elaborate 
than  in  New  York.  All  classes  had  changed,  to  a 
certain  extent,  in  this  respect.  The  miner,  as  he  is  seen 
in  the  mines,  was  not  to  be  met  with  in  San  Francisco ; 
he  attired  himself  in  suitable  raiment  in  Sacramento 
or  Stockton  before  venturing  to  show  himself  in  the 

Gambling  was  decidedly  on  the  wane.  Two  or 
three  saloons  were  still  extant,  but  the  company  to 
be  found  in  them  was  not  what  it  used  to  be.  The 
scum  of  the  population  was  there;  but  respectable  men, 
with  a  character  to  lose,  were  chary  of  risking  it  by 
being  seen  in  a  public  gambling-room ;  and,  moreover, 
the  greater  domestic  comfort  which  men  enjoyed, 
and  the  usual  attractions  of  social  life,  removed  all 
excuse  for  frequenting  such  places. 

Public  amusements  were  of  a  high  order.  Bis- 
caccianti  and  Catherine  Hayes  were  giving  concerts, 
Madame  Anne  Bishop  was  singing  in  English  opera, 
and  the  performances  at  the  various  theatres  were 
sustained  by  the  most  favourite  actors  from  the 
Atlantic  States. 

Extravagant  expenditure  is  a  marked  feature  in 
San  Francisco  life.  The  same  style  of  ostentation, 
however,  which  is  practised  in  older  countries,  is 
unattainable  in  California,  and  in  such  a  country 
would  entirely  fail  in  its  effect.  Extravagance,  accord- 


ingly,  was  indulged  more  for  the  purpose  of  procur- 
ing tangible  enjoyment  than  for  the  sake  of  show. 
Men  spent  their  money  in  surrounding  themselves 
with  the  best  of  everything,  not  so  much  for  display 
as  from  due  appreciation  of  its  excellence  ;  for  there 
is  no  city  of  the  same  size  or  age  where  there  is  so 
little  provincialism  ;  the  inhabitants,  generally,  are 
eminently  cosmopolitan  in  their  character,  and  judge 
of  merit  by  the  highest  standard. 

As  yet,  the  influence  of  California  upon  this  country 
is  not  so  much  felt  by  direct  communication  as  through 
the  medium  of  the  States.  A  very  large  proportion  of 
the  English  goods  consumed  in  the  country  find  their 
way  there  through  the  New  York  market,  and  in  many 
cases  in  such  a  shape,  as  in  articles  manufactured  in 
the  States  from  English  materials,  that  the  actual 
value  of  the  trade  cannot  be  accurately  estimated. 
The  tide  of  emigration  from  this  country  to  California 
follows  very  much  the  same  course.  The  English  are 
there  very  numerous,  but  those  direct  from  England 
bear  but  an  exceedingly  small  proportion  to  those 
from  the  United  States,  from  New  South  Wales,  and 
other  countries ;  and  the  latter,  no  doubt,  possessed 
a  great  advantage,  for,  without  undervaluing  the 
merit  of  English  mechanics  and  workmen  in  their 
own  particular  trade,  it  must  be  allowed  that  the 
same  class  of  Americans  are  less  confined  to  one  spe- 
ciality, and  have  more  general  knowledge  of  other 
trades,  which  makes  them  better  men  to  be  turned 


adrift  in  a  new  country,  where  they  may  have  to 
employ  themselves  in  a  hundred  different  ways  before 
they  find  an  opportunity  of  following  the  trade  to 
which  they  have  been  brought  up.  An  English 
mechanic,  after  a  few  years'  experience  of  a  younger 
country,  without  losing  any  of  the  superiority  he 
may  possess  in  his  own  trade,  becomes  more  fitted  to 
compete  with  the  rest  of  the  world  when  placed  in  a 
position  where  that  speciality  is  unavailable. 

California  has  afforded  the  Americans  their  first 
opportunity  of  showing  their  capacity  as  colonists. 
The  other  States  which  have,  of  late  years,  been 
added  to  the  Union,  are  not  a  fair  criterion,  for  they 
have  been  created  merely  by  the  expansion  of  the 
outer  circumference  of  civilisation,  by  the  restlessness 
of  the  backwoodsman  unaided  by  any  other  class  ;  but 
the  attractions  offered  by  California  were  such  as  to 
draw  to  it  a  complete  ready-made  population  of  active 
and  capable  men,  of  every  trade  and  profession. 

The  majority  of  men  went  there  with  the  idea  of 
digging  gold,  or  without  any  definite  idea  of  how 
they  would  employ  themselves  ;  but  as  the  wants  of 
a  large  community  began  to  be  felt,  the  men  were 
already  at  hand  capable  of  supplying  them  ;  and  the 
result  was,  that  in  many  professions,  and  in  all  the 
various  branches  of  mechanical  industry,  the  same 
degree  of  excellence  was  exhibited  as  is  known  in 
any  part  of  the  world. 

Certainly  no  new  country  ever  so  rapidly  advanced 


to  the  same  high  position  as  California  ;  but  it  is 
equally  true  that  no  country  ever  commenced  its 
career  with  such  an  effective  population,  or  with  the 
same  elements  of  wealth  to  work  upon.  There  are 
circumstances,  however,  connected  with  the  early 
history  of  the  country  which  may  not  appear  to  be 
so  favourable  to  immediate  prosperity  and  progress. 
Other  new  countries  have  been  peopled  by  gradual 
accessions  to  an  already  formed  centre,  from  which 
the  rest  of  the  mass  received  character  and  con- 
sistency ;  but  in  the  case  of  California  the  process 
was  much  more  abrupt.  Thousands  of  men,  hitherto 
unknown  to  each  other,  and  without  mutual  relation- 
ship, were  thrown  suddenly  together,  unrestrained  by 
conventional  or  domestic  obligations,  and  all  more 
intently  bent  than  men  usually  are  upon  the  one 
immediate  object  of  acquiring  wealth.  It  is  to  be 
wondered  that  chaos  and  anarchy  were  not  at  first 
the  result  of  such  a  state  of  things ;  but  such  was 
never  the  case  in  any  part  of  the  country  ;  and  it  is, 
no  doubt,  greatly  owing  to  the  large  proportion  of 
superior  men  among  the  early  settlers,  and  to  the 
capacity  for  self-government  possessed  by  all  classes 
of  Americans,  that  a  system  of  government  was  at 
once  organised  and  maintained,  and  that  the  country 
was  so  soon  entitled  to  rank  as  one  of  the  most 
important  States  of  the  Union. 

The  consequences  to  the  rest  of  the  world  of  the 
gold  of  California  it  is  not  easy  to  determine,  and  it 


is  not  for  me  to  enter  upon  the  great  question  as  to 
the  effect  on  prices  of  an  addition  to  the  quantity  of 
precious  metals  in  the  world  of  £250,000,000,  which 
in  round  numbers  is  the  estimated  amount  of  gold  and 
silver  produced  within  the  last  eight  years.  It  seems, 
however,  more  than  probable  that  the  present  high 
range  of  prices  may,  to  a  certain  extent,  be  caused  by 
this  immense  addition  to  our  stock  of  gold  and  silver. 
But  the  question  becomes  more  complicated  when  we 
consider  the  extraordinary  impetus  given  to  com- 
merce and  manufactures  by  this  sudden  production 
of  gold  acting  simultaneously  with  the  equally  ex- 
panding influence  of  Free  Trade.  The  time  cannot 
be  far  off  when  this  important  investigation  must  be 
entered  upon  with  all  that  talent  which  can  be 
brought  to  bear  upon  it.  But  this  is  the  domain  of 
philosophers,  and  of  those  whose  part  in  life  it  is 
to  do  the  deep-thinking  for  the  rest  of  the  world.  I 
have  no  desire  to  trespass  on  such  ground,  and  abstain 
also  from  fruitlessly  wandering  in  the  endless  mazes 
of  the  Currency  question. 

There  are  other  thoughts,  however,  which  cannot 
but  arise  on  considering  the  modern  discoveries  of 
gold.  When  we  see  a  new  country  and  a  new  home 
provided  for  our  surplus  population,  at  a  time  when 
it  was  most  required — when  a  fresh  supply  of  gold, 
now  a  necessary  to  civilisation,  is  discovered,  as  we 
were  evidently  and  notoriously  becoming  so  urgently 
in  want  of  it,  we  cannot  but  recognise  the  ruling  hand 


of  Providence.  And  when  we  see  the  uttermost  parts 
of  the  earth  suddenly  attracting  such  an  immense 
population  of  enterprising,  intelligent,  earnest  Anglo- 
Saxon  men,  forming,  with  a  rapidity  which  seems 
miraculous,  new  communities  and  new  powers  such 
as  California  and  Australia,  we  must  indeed  look  upon 
this  whole  Golden  Legend  as  one  of  the  most  won- 
drous episodes  in  the  history  of  mankind. 

THE    END. 








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tion ;  but  we  regard  this  as  a  fault  leaning  to  virtue's  side  in  an  instructional  book.  The 
young  are  often  ashamed  to  ask  for  an  explanation  of  simple  things,  and  are  too  often  dis- 
couraged by  an  indolent  or  supercilious  teacher  if  they  do.  But  Mr  Stephens  entirely 
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explains  their  several  bearings We  have  thoroughly  examined  these  volumes  ; 

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